Parental Mentalizing during Middle Childhood: How Is the Adoption of a Reflective Stance Associated with Child’s Psychological Outcomes?

Simone Charpentier Mora, Chiara Bastianoni, Nina Koren-Karie, Donatella Cavanna, Marta Tironi, Fabiola Bizzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This exploratory cross-sectional study attempts to understand the mechanisms underlying the role of parental mentalizing in a child’s psychological functioning during middle childhood by using Parental Reflective Functioning (PRF) and Parental Insightfulness (PI) constructs. The main aims are to examine the role of PI and PRF as processes capable of influencing a child’s psychological functioning in terms of emotional–behavioral difficulties and social–emotional competencies. Eighty-six community parents (48 mothers, 38 fathers) and their 50 children in middle childhood (Mage = 10.10, SD = 1.13) participated in this study, recruited through a non-probabilistic sampling. The following measures were used to assess the aims of this study: Insightfulness Assessment, Parental Reflective Functioning Questionnaire, Child Behavior Check-list (CBCL) and Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) questionnaires. Results showed that parental mentalizing was found to be significantly associated with both child’s internalizing and externalizing symptoms and social–emotional competencies as reported by parents through the CBCL and DESSA questionnaires. This study may offer a contribution to the study of parental mentalizing during middle childhood, supporting the hypothesis that both parents’ ability to understand their child’s mental states could affect the child’s psychological functioning. Clinical and theoretical implications are geared toward a family-based view with a specific focus on the importance of fostering in both parents a positive attitude toward mentalizing processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6205
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • middle childhood
  • parental insightfulness
  • parental mentalizing
  • parental reflective functioning
  • psychological symptoms
  • social–emotional competencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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