Mind-mindedness in parents of looked after children

Sarah Louise Fishburn, Elizabeth Meins, Sarah Greenhow, Christine Jones, Simon Hackett, Janine Irene Biehal, Helen Frances Baldwin, Linda Suzanne Cusworth, James Edward Wade

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The studies reported here aimed to test the proposal that mind-mindedness is a quality of personal relationships by assessing mind-mindedness in caregiver–child dyads where the relationship has not spanned the child’s life or where the relationship has been judged dysfunctional. Studies 1 and 2 investigated differences in mind-mindedness between adoptive parents (ns 89, 36) and biological parents from the general population (ns 54, 114). Both studies found lower mind-mindedness in adoptive compared with biological parents. Study 2’s results showed that this group difference was independent of parental mental health and could not fully be explained in terms of children’s behavioral difficulties. Study 3 investigated differences in mind-mindedness in foster carers (n=122), parents whose children have been the subject of a child protection plan (n=172), and a community sample of biological parents (n=128). The level of mind-mindedness in foster carers and parents who were involved with child protection services was identical and lower than that in the community sample; children’s behavioral difficulties could not account for the difference between the two groups of biological parents. In all three studies, non-biological carers’ tendency to describe their children with reference to pre-adoption or placement experiences was negatively related to mind-mindedness. These findings are in line with mind-mindedness being a relational construct.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1954-1965
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number10
Early online date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

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© 2017 by the American Psychological Association. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • mind-mindedness; adoption; fostering; behavioral difficulties; child protection

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