Maternal mentalization and child emotion regulation: A comparison of different phases of early childhood

Parental reflective functioning describes the parents' ability to reflect on the internal mental states of their children, which will make them react more sensitively to their children´s needs. The association between parental reflective functioning and child emotion regulation is regarded to be a key factor in early childhood parenting but further research is needed about this relationship throughout a child's development. 

A recent study analyzed this interaction considering the early childhood development stages. 381 mothers having babies between 0 and 26 months of age were enrolled on the study. The PRFQ and ASQ:SE-2 questionnaires were used to assess parental reflective functioning and child emotion regulation, respectively. Results revealed that maternal RF and child emotion regulation do not obey a linear process according to the childhood development stages. The maternal PM dimension was also seen to generate a conditional effect on children's emotion regulation. 

Thus, caregivers' mentalizing capacity is crucial in maintaining and facilitating the development process of the child's emotional competence. Also, its absence might be associated with emotional problems that may cause behavioral difficulties. This is suitable during the first two years (from birth to 26 months), but specifically in the stages of the child's first year.

These results emphasize the importance of paying attention to specific early childhood developmental stages to understand the influence of maternal reflective functioning on a child´s ability to calm and adjust to her/his environment.

SOURCE- Álvarez N, Lázaro MH, Gordo L, Elejalde LI, Pampliega AM. Maternal mentalization and child emotion regulation: A comparison of different phases of early childhood, Infant Behavior and Development, 2022;66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2021.101681.

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