What is it about?

Mind-mindedness is a parent’s tendency to treat their young child as an individual with a mind who engages in purposeful behavior. When parents demonstrate accurate understanding of their child’s mental world, this is related to positive developmental outcomes. However, previous studies suggest that these positive outcomes are specific to families experiencing adversity. Our study found that mother’s mind-mindedness predicted fewer behavioral problems in early childhood for children from low-income families with a history of maltreatment (i.e., abuse or neglect), but not in low-income families who did not have a history of maltreatment. Additionally, mother’s mind-mindedness during infancy predicted children’s ability to use more complex language about internal states (e.g., emotions and thoughts) as toddlers.

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Why is it important?

Our findings suggest that the benefits of mind-mindedness for children’s functioning may be more salient in adverse contexts that pose a risk to their healthy development such as child maltreatment. It is also important to consider how mind-mindedness influences different aspects of children’s language development. This research could inform clinical practice by encouraging interventions to increase mind-mindedness that are delivered to families experiencing adversity, which could in turn prevent future difficulties.


This study is important because it shows that despite the risks for future problems that children from maltreating families face, there are still strengths these families possess that can prevent these children from having future challenges. There are already brief interventions that exist to help parents increase their mind-mindedness that can make a huge impact if we take the time to recognize and build on their strengths.

Dr. Michelle Brown
University of South Carolina

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Mind-mindedness in a high-risk sample: Differential benefits for developmental outcomes based on child maltreatment., Developmental Psychology, January 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/dev0001506.
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