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Attachment, parent -child discourse and theory of mind development

Lenna Leonani Ontai, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The current study proposes that secure attachment relationships provide children with a unique environment in which to learn about the relation between the mind and behavior. Secure attachment relationships possess characteristics such as goal corrected partnerships and open affective communication patterns, which help children perceive and understand the caregiver's mental state as they participate in ongoing interactions. This early insight into the link between mental states and the behavior of the caregiver may help securely attached children build more accurate and effective models of social interactions, easing the later navigation of their social world. The current study tested this theory with a sample of 78 4-year-olds and their mothers using measures of children's theory of mind, attachment security and mothers' affective and mental discourse. Results were contrary to the hypotheses, indicating that there was not a significant relationship between attachment security and children's theory of mind understanding. The discourse style used by mothers did not mediate the relationship between attachment and theory of mind nor did it have a significant relation to attachment as predicted. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Ontai, Lenna Leonani, "Attachment, parent -child discourse and theory of mind development" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3059961.