Method: Drawing data from a preventive intervention study of post-deployed military families, we analyzed 282 military fathers who had been deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan since 2001 and returned. Fathers were mostly Caucasian, in their 30s, married, and lived in middle-class households. At baseline, trait mindfulness was self-reported using the Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire. Specifically, the Observing subscale indicated monitoring and the Nonreactivity subscale indicated acceptance. At baseline and 1-year later, emotion regulation was self-reported using the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (reverse-coded), and cognitive control was assessed using a Go/No-Go task. At baseline and 2-years later, parenting was observed through video-taped family interactions (involving both parents and a 4-13-year-old child) and coded using a theory-driven, empirically validated coding system. Control variables included demographic and deployment-related variables.
Results: A direct effect model demonstrated a good fit, χ2(11) = 5.03, p = .93, CFI = 1.00, RMSEA = 0.00, SRMR = 0.01. Monitoring by acceptance predicted parenting at 2-years (β = .16, p =.01), suggesting that higher monitoring plus higher acceptance predicted better parenting. A mediation model with cognitive control demonstrated a good fit, χ2(5) = 6.07, p = .30, CFI = .99, RMSEA = 0.03, SRMR = 0.01. Monitoring by acceptance (β = .14, p < .05) predicted cognitive control at 1-year, such that higher monitoring plus higher acceptance predicted better cognitive control, which in turn predicted parenting at 2-year (β = .14, p < .05). A mediation model with emotion regulation demonstrated a good fit, χ2(7) = 13.94, p = .05, CFI = .98, RMSEA = 0.06, SRMR = 0.02. Acceptance predicted emotion regulation at 1-year (β = .15, p < .01), which further predicted parenting at 2-year (β = .17, p < .01). In a two-mediator model, cognitive control rather than emotion regulation remained as a significant mediator for the effect of monitoring by acceptance on parenting.
Conclusions: The findings are discussed in the context of the MAT framework and conceptualizations of mindfulness, emotion regulation, cognitive control, and parenting.