Original Contribution

European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, 20:291

First online:

The role of child and parental mentalizing for the development of conduct problems over time

  • Carolyn HaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Houston
  • , Carla SharpAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Houston Email author 
  • , Ian GoodyerAffiliated withCambridge University

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Abstract

The current study aimed to investigate the role of parental and child mentalizing in the development of conduct problems over time in a community sample of 7- to 11-year-olds (N = 659). To measure child mentalizing, children were asked to complete a social vignettes task at baseline as a measure of distorted mentalizing. Parents (primarily mothers) were asked to complete the same task, guessing their child’s responses in the social scenarios as a measure of maternal mentalizing. Conduct problems were evaluated using repeated measures from multi-informant (self-, teacher-, and parent-report) questionnaires completed at baseline and 1-year follow-up. As expected, children who had an overly positive mentalizing style were more likely to be reported by teachers as having conduct problems at 1-year follow-up. These findings held when controlling for baseline conduct problems, IQ, SES, and sex. Findings for maternal mentalizing were significant for follow-up parent-report conduct problem symptoms at the bivariate level of analyses, but not at the multivariate level when controlling for baseline conduct problems and age. These findings extend previous reports by providing predictive validity for distorted mentalizing in the development of conduct problems.

Keywords

Conduct problems Social cognition Distorted mentalizing Parental mentalizing Child mentalizing