Parental mentalization: A critical literature review of mind-mindedness, parental insightfulness and parental reflective functioning

Written by Flavia L. Medrea, Oana Benga on . Posted in Volume XXV, Nr 1


Flavia L. Medrea*, Oana Benga

Department of Psychology, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania


Parental mentalization captures the parent’s abilities to represent his/her child as a psychological agent and the parent’s proclivity to understand and interpret child’s behavior in terms of mental states. Under this label, the literature emphasizes three different constructs: mind-mindedness, parental reflective functioning and insightfulness. Presently, there is no integrative review addressing all three constructs comprehensively through a comparative analysis. Furthermore, there is some confusion as to where the concepts overlap and differ, how they are distinctively operationalized and which measures are used to tap into each one of them. To address this issue, this article aims to synthesize the literature in a critical manner, reviewing mind-mindedness, parental reflective functioning and insightfulness. This study identifies key theoretical and methodological aspects of parental mentalization constructs (e.g., definition and conceptualization, measurements, parental and child correlates, strengths and weaknesses). Moreover, the constructs are compared based on their similarities and differences regarding definition, conceptualization and measurements. Finally, the paper offers some directions for further research. This review informs research in the field by providing an integrative and comprehensive understanding of parental mentalization.

Keywords: parental mentalization abilities, mind-mindedness, insightfulness, parental reflective functioning



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