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The influence of parent and parent-child patterns of attachment on the development of children's understanding of minds

Holder, Juliet Elizabeth; (1996) The influence of parent and parent-child patterns of attachment on the development of children's understanding of minds. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Recently, there have been suggestions in the theory of mind literature that there are individual differences in children's understanding of mental states which can be attributed to influences within the social world of the family, such as the sibling relationship, and parent-child discourse. Following recent developments in attachment theory, this thesis examines the possibility that it is the quality of the attachment relationships within the family which are influencing individual differences in children's understanding of minds. The thesis draws on data collected in the context of a longitudinal study of attachment patterns among 90 first- born children, spanning a period of six years. Children's understanding of mental states were assessed at five years of age using three theory of mind paradigms: (1) a standard false-belief paradigm; (2) a cognitive-emotion paradigm; and (3) a higher-order paradigm. These three paradigms require increasing levels of representational skills in order to pass them. Additionally, paradigms (1) and (3) assess children's understanding of the links between beliefs, thoughts and actions, whereas paradigm (2) assesses children's understanding of the links between beliefs, thoughts and emotions. Attachment relationships with both mother and father were assessed in infancy by the Strange Situation, and at five years by a modified Strange Situation procedure. The parents' attachments were assessed before the birth of the child by the Adult Attachment Interview. Multivariate analyses examined the role of the attachment constructs in the development of children's understanding of the links between beliefs, thoughts and actions, as well as their understanding of the links between beliefs, thoughts and emotions. These analyses controlled for the influence of other family relationships (sibling and marital), personality and temperamental factors, educational and demographic factors, and children's mental development and expressive language skills. The analyses revealed that attachment quality (both parent and parent-infant) is predictive of children's understanding of the links between beliefs, thoughts and emotions but not of their understanding of the links between beliefs, thoughts and actions. An 'affect- mirroring interactions' hypothesis is advanced as the mechanism of influence, a hypothesis which revolves around the 'reflective-self' capacity of the parent.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The influence of parent and parent-child patterns of attachment on the development of children's understanding of minds
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Attachment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099764
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