When words just won't do: Introducing parental embodied mentalizing

Dana Shai, Jay Belsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parental mentalizing-parents' capacity to appreciate, even unconsciously, the infant's mental states and their role in motivating behavior-is related to infant attachment security and other social and cognitive capacities. Yet virtually all current measurements of parental mentalizing rely on parents' semantic and verbal expressions. Despite the demonstrated value of this approach, exclusive reliance on verbal processes may fail to fully capture interactive mentalizing processes. Reflecting an embodied relational perspective for investigating parent-infant interaction, this article introduces parental embodied mentalizing, which refers to parents' capacity to (a) implicitly conceive, comprehend, and extrapolate the infant's mental states from the infant's whole-body movement, and (b) adjust their own kinesthetic patterns accordingly. It concludes by outlining directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Body
  • Mentalizing
  • Nonverbal
  • Parent-infant interaction
  • Parental embodied mentalizing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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