Moray House School of Education and Sport

Research highlights the importance of parental mind-mindedness

Dr Sarah Foley publishes research demonstrating links between parental mind-mindedness during pregnancy and early parent-infant conversations.

Parental mind-mindedness (MM) refers to the propensity to view one’s child as an agent with thoughts, feelings, and desires, and it has links with children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural outcomes.

Dr Sarah Foley et al studied parental MM from pregnancy to toddlerhood by asking 384 mothers and fathers to talk for five minutes about their child – these provide a window into whether they see their infants as having independent minds. This was the first large-scale study to demonstrate expectant parents could be mind-minded and this partly predicted their later MM.

A subset of families was invited to have their infant wear a bespoke vest with an in-built audio recorder to gather data on family conversations throughout a day at 7 months postpartum. Higher MM during pregnancy (but not postnatally) was associated with more frequent conversations started by their infants and to their infants at 7 months – suggesting that helping expectant parents think about whom they’re going to meet could be beneficial for early family relationships.


Dr Sarah Foley