Non-verbal and verbal parental mentalization as predictors of infant attachment security: Contributions of parental embodied mentalizing and mind-mindedness and the mediating role of maternal sensitivity
*Gagné K, Lemelin J-P, Tarabulsy GM. (2021). Non-verbal and verbal parental mentalization as predictors of infant attachment security: Contributions of parental embodied mentalizing and mind-mindedness and the mediating role of maternal sensitivity. Infant Behavior and Development, 65.
Interest in studying the relative contributions of verbal (e.g., maternal mind-mindedness [MM]) and non-verbal dimensions (i.e., parental embodied mentalizing [PEM]) of parental mentalization to child socio-emotional development is relatively recent. To date, only one study has addressed this issue in relation to child attachment security, suggesting a complementary and unique contribution of each one. The purpose of the present study was to further examine the specific contribution of PEM to infant attachment security by considering MM. In addition, this study aimed to explore the mediating role of maternal sensitivity linking PEM, MM to infant attachment security within 110 mother-infant dyads at moderate psychosocial risk. The two dimensions of parental mentalization (PEM and MM) were assessed on the basis of observations made during a videorecorded sequence of mother-child interactions in a context of free play with and without toys when the infants were 8 months old. The Maternal Behavior Q-Sort was used to measure the mothers’ sensitivity in a natural setting based on observations of daily mother-child interactions, also when the infants were about 8 months old. Attachment security was measured using The Strange Situation Procedure at infant age 16 months. The results showed positive correlations between maternal sensitivity and both verbal and non-verbal measures of parental mentalization. The mediation analyses first revealed that PEM had a significant indirect effect on attachment security, with sensitivity being identified as a mediator in this association. No indirect effect linking MM and attachment security via sensitivity was observed. These results highlight the contribution of PEM to maternal sensitivity and show maternal sensitivity to be a factor that partly explains the influence of PEM on attachment security in children.