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The parent-infant dyad and the construction of the subjective self

Fonagy, P; Gergely, G; Target, M; (2007) The parent-infant dyad and the construction of the subjective self. [Review]. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry , 48 (3-4) 288 - 328. 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01727.x. Green open access

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Abstract

Developmental psychology and psychopathology has in the past been more concerned with the quality of self-representation than with the development of the subjective agency which underpins our experience of feeling, thought and action, a key function of mentalisation. This review begins by contrasting a Cartesian view of pre-wired introspective subjectivity with a constructionist model based on the assumption of an innate contingency detector which orients the infant towards aspects of the social world that react congruently and in a specifically cued informative manner that expresses and facilitates the assimilation of cultural knowledge. Research on the neural mechanisms associated with mentalisation and social influences on its development are reviewed. It is suggested that the infant focuses on the attachment figure as a source of reliable information about the world. The construction of the sense of a subjective self is then an aspect of acquiring knowledge about the world through the caregiver's pedagogical communicative displays which in this context focuses on the child's thoughts and feelings. We argue that a number of possible mechanisms, including complementary activation of attachment and mentalisation, the disruptive effect of maltreatment on parent-child communication, the biobehavioural overlap of cues for learning and cues for attachment, may have a role in ensuring that the quality of relationship with the caregiver influences the development of the child's experience of thoughts and feelings.

Type: Article
Title: The parent-infant dyad and the construction of the subjective self
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01727.x
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01727.x
Language: English
Additional information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Fonagy, P; Gergely, G; Target, M; (2007) The parent-infant dyad and the construction of the subjective self. [Review]. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry , 48 (3-4) 288 - 328, which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01727.x. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Keywords: Attachment, mentalisation, theory of mind, social development, social cognition, self, pedagogical stance, anterior cingulate cortex, maternal mind-mindedness, temporo-parietal junction, monogamous prairie vole, human prefrontal cortex, false-belief, social cognition, individual-differences, attachment security, facial expressions
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/11871
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