Parental insightfulness and child-parent emotion dialogues: Their importance for children's development.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


A long-held premise of child development researchers and clinicians is that the impact of experience on children’s development is mediated through the affective meaning ascribed to the experience: The same event may have very different implications for the child’s development depending on its emotional meaning for the child. Such meanings are not solitary child creations, however, but are co-constructed by children and their parents (as well as other significant persons in their lives). Both parents and children contribute to the co-construction process, with the parent—the more mature, resourceful, and experienced partner in the relationship—having a particularly important role in shaping the interactions with the child and, ultimately the affective meaning the child constructs. This chapter focuses on two aspects of parenting that are particularly relevant for children’s affective meaning-making process: parents’ insightfulness—their capacity to 'see things from the child’s point of view'—and parents’ sensitive guidance of dialogues about emotional experiences. Insightfulness is assessed by interviewing parents about the child, and sensitive guidance is assessed through observations of parents talking with the child. Our studies propose that when these parental processes involve coherent, organized, and child-centered affective meaning making, they promotes children’s flexible and adaptive coping, emotion regulation, and well-being. In this chapter, we review our research on parental insightfulness and on parent–child dialogues. Both assessments are deeply rooted in attachment theory, particularly its expansion by Main into the level of representations and construction of meaning (Main, Kaplan, & Cassidy, 1985). We present the theoretical basis for each of these constructs, the methods used to assess them, and the findings that support these methods. In addition we discuss the commonalties underlying the capacity for both insightfulness and sensitive guidance of dialogues. We turn first to a review of parental insightfulness. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMechanisms of social connection
Subtitle of host publicationFrom brain to group.
EditorsMario Mikulincer, Phillip R. Shaver
Place of PublicationWashington, DC
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association Inc.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)1433814153, 9781433814150
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Publication series

NameThe Herzliya series on personality and social psychology


  • Childhood Development
  • Insight
  • Meaning
  • Parent Child Communication
  • Parenting
  • Attachment Theory
  • Emotions
  • Parents


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