2015 IPFW Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium



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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Brenda Lundy-Jackson


Department of Psychology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne

IPFW Sigma Xi (Scientific Research Honor Society) Student Research Competition


IPFW Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium Award Winner



Variations in maternal parenting characteristics have been studied extensively in relation to children's acquisition of theory of mind (ToM; e.g., Meins, et al., 2002; Ruffman, Perner & Parkin, 1999), the understanding that the behaviors of self and others are governed by internal mental processes (i.e., beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions; Wellman, Phillips & Rodriguez, 2000). One line of research has focused on the role of maternal mind-mindedness (MM), or the tendency to treat one's child as a unique entity comprised of independent mental processes (Meins & Fernyhough, 1999; Meins et al., 2002, 2003). The MM construct has been operationalized in terms of a mother's use of appropriate mind-related comments in reference to her child's mental processes (e.g., intentions, memories, thoughts and desires) during parent child interactions (Meins et al., 2002, 2003). However, research on children's reciprocal mind related comments during father-child and mother-child problem-solving has received little attention. In addition, little is known about children's mind-related comments during problem solving in relation to their concurrent ToM performance. It was hypothesized that mothers and fathers who are more mind-minded would have children who provide a higher frequency of their own mind-related comments and, in turn, would demonstrate higher levels of ToM.

Seventy-five parents (38 fathers, 37 mothers) and their four-year-olds participated. Each parent interacted with his/her child on a collaborative problem-solving task. Interactions were video recorded and parents' and children's comments were transcribed and coded for frequency of mind-related comments. Children's understanding of ToM was also assessed.

As anticipated, parent and child variables were significantly inter-correlated, and no parental gender differences were observed in levels of MM. In addition, mediation analyses revealed that frequency of children's mind-related comments mediated the relation between parents' mind related comments and children's ToM. The confidence intervals were completely above zero (R2=.17, F(3,71)=9.42, p<.001, (95% CI: [.1073 to 1.5442]). These findings suggest that parents who are attuned to their children's mental processes, have children who are more likely to comment on their own and others' mental processes which, in turn, predicts higher ToM performance.


Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Preschoolers' Mind-Related Comments: Stepping Stones to Early Theory of Mind