Twenty years of research on parental mind-mindedness

Empirical findings, theoretical and methodological challenges, and new directions

Catherine McMahon*, Annie Bernier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)


Mind-mindedness refers to a caregiver's tendency to treat the young child as an individual with a mind of his or her own. It is assessed in the first year of life by the caregiver's tendency to comment appropriately on, and not misread, the infant's mental states (thoughts, feelings, preferences) during interaction and in older children by the caregivers' spontaneous use of mental state words in response to an invitation to describe their child. This narrative review first describes the construct and its theoretical origins as well as the different approaches to measurement. We then critically review 20. years of empirical literature linking mind-mindedness to indices of the parent-child attachment relationship and child developmental outcomes, and exploring the properties of the construct. We conclude by identifying key theoretical and methodological questions that need to be addressed in order to advance the field as well as potential clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-80
Number of pages27
JournalDevelopmental Review
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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