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Mind-mindedness and preschool children’s behavioral difficulties: The moderating role of maternal parenting distress

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2022

Lucy Hobby
School of Psychology, Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Amy L. Bird*
School of Psychology, Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia School of Psychology, Faculty of Science, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Michelle L. Townsend
School of Psychology, Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Jacqueline Barnes
School of Psychology, Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck University of London, London, Greater London, UK
Corresponding author: Amy Bird, email:


Mind-mindedness (MM) is a caregiver’s tendency to appreciate their infant’s internal mental states. This longitudinal study investigated whether maternal MM (10 months) was linked with children’s later behavioral problems (51 months) and the moderating role of maternal parenting distress (PD; 36 months) in a sample of 91 mother–infant dyads. Appropriate MM comments were coded from video-recorded, semi-structured play interactions between mothers and their infants; PD was obtained from maternal completion of the PD subscale of the Parenting Stress Index – Short Form (PSI-SF); and child internalizing and externalizing behavior problems were gathered from maternal report on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Moderated regression analyses revealed higher early appropriate MM was associated with significantly fewer internalizing emotional problems at 51 months among mothers with lower PD at 36 months, and higher early appropriate MM was associated with lower conduct problems at 51 months in mothers with higher PD at 36 months. Findings demonstrated the importance of considering nuanced contexts such as at-risk mothers and differential presentations of child difficulties in the analysis of the relationship between MM and child behavioral difficulties and the development of MM interventions.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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