Mothers empathic understanding of their preschoolers' internal experience: Relations with early attachment

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This study examined the links between mothers' empathic understanding of their preschoolers' internal experience and early infant-mother attachment. The empathic understanding of 118 mothers of 4.5-year-olds was assessed by showing them three videotaped segments of observations of their children and themselves and interviewing them regarding their children's and their own thoughts and feelings. Interviews were rated and then classified into one empathic and three nonempathic categories, and mothers' misperceptions of the observations were coded as well. Infant-mother attachment classifications obtained using the Strange Situation when infants were 12 months old were also available. Results showed association between mothers' empathic understanding classifications and children's attachment classifications as well as differences between mothers of secure and insecure children on one of the two interview composite scores. Also, mothers of insecurely attached children had more misperceptions than those of securely attached children. The contributions of this study to the work on mothers' representations of their children are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-26
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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