Parental mentalizing–the parent’s ability to envision the child’s mental states (such as desires, thoughts, or wishes)–has been argued to underlie a parent’s ability to respond sensitively to their child’s emotional needs, and thereby promote advantageous cognitive and socio-emotional development. Mentalizing is typically operationalized in terms of how parents talk to or about their infants. This work extends research on mentalizing by operationalizing parental mentalizing exclusively in terms of nonverbal, bodily based, interactive behavior, namely parental embodied mentalizing(PEM). The purpose of the current research was twofold: (1) to establish the reliability and validity of the PEM coding system; and (2) to evaluate whether such measurement predicts infant and child cognitive and socio-emotional functioning. Assessing 200 mother–infant dyads at 6 months using the coding of PEM proved both reliable and valid, including predicting child attachment security at 15 and 36 months, and language abilities, academic skills, behavior problems, and social competence at 54 months, in many cases even after taking into consideration traditional measures of parenting, namely maternal sensitivity. Conceptual, empirical, and clinical implications are discussed.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
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- attachment security
- maternal sensitivity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health