Date of Award
Doctoral Research Paper
Graduate School of Professional Psychology
Angels in the nursery, Ghosts in the nursery, Childhood maltreatment, Pregnancy, Resilience
This study examined the associations between three types of angel memories, defined as recollections of loving moments with childhood caregivers, and pregnant women’s reported childhood adversity and current PTSD symptoms. Angel memories were coded from the Angels in the Nursery Interview (Van Horn et al., 2008) into three subtypes: protection in the context of harm, rupture in the protective shield, and sensory memories. Participants were 175 ethnically-diverse pregnant women (M age = 28.07, SD = 5.68, range = 18-40 years; 61.1% non-White) who completed the Angels Interview, the Adverse Childhood Experiences scale (ACEs; CDC, 2021) for childhood adversity, and the PCL-5 (Weathers et al., 2013) for PTSD symptoms. Results indicated that 36.6% of women (n = 64) recalled an angel memory characterized by either protection in the context of harm or a sensory experience, while only 9.1% of all women had angel memories reflecting rupture in the protective shield. Post-hoc analyses examined ghost memories, defined as intrusive reminders of traumatic experiences, and revealed that 36.6% of women (n = 64) had ghost memories involving their mother, and 20.0% (n = 35) had ghost memories involving their father. Compared to women who did not have ghost memories involving their mother, women who did had significantly higher levels of childhood maltreatment, but not family dysfunction nor current PTSD symptoms. There were no significant differences between women who had versus did not have ghost memories with their father on childhood adversity, or PTSD symptoms. Findings underscore high potential for resilient caregiving, as many pregnant women had angel memories characterized by loving care that were free from traumatic intrusions. Findings also suggest that women whose childhood memories contain trauma reminders involving their own mother may benefit from additional screening for childhood maltreatment and interventions to recover from unresolved childhood trauma. Trauma-informed interventions delivered during the perinatal period may have optimal power to disrupt cycles of intergenerational trauma and help expectant women draw upon loving memories with childhood caregivers as templates for positive parenting of infants. The Angels Interview can identify markers of psychological risk and resilience and inform clinical efforts to promote caregiving resilience.
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Spear, Rebecca, "Unique Types of Angel and Ghost Memories in Low-income, Diverse Pregnant Women" (2022). Graduate School of Professional Psychology: Doctoral Papers and Masters Projects. 438.