Mind-Mindedness in Parents of Looked-After Children

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Abstract

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 in which the relationship has not spanned the child’s life or in which 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. The results of Study 2 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 had 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 2 groups of biological parents. In all 3 studies, nonbiological carers’ tendency to describe their children with reference to preadoption or placement experiences was negatively related to mind-mindedness. These findings are in line with mind-mindedness being a relational construct.

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