Maternal mind-mindedness provides a buffer for pre-adolescents at risk for disruptive behavior.


Maternal mind-mindedness, defined as the propensity to view one’s child as an agent with independent thoughts and feelings, mitigates the impact of low maternal education on conduct problems in young children (Meins et al. 2013), but has been little studied beyond the preschool years. Addressing this gap, we applied a multi-measure and multi-informant approach to assess family adversity and disruptive behavior at age 12 for a socially diverse sample of 116 children for whom ratings of disruptive behavior at age 6 were available. Each mother was asked to describe her child and transcripts of these five-minute speech samples were coded for (i) mind-mindedness (defined by the proportion of child attributes that were mental rather than physical or behavioral) and (ii) positivity (defined by the proportion of child attributes that were positive rather than neutral or negative). Our regression results showed that, independent of associations with prior adjustment, family adversity, child gender and low maternal monitoring, mothers’ mind-mindedness (but not positivity) predicted unique variance in disruptive behavior at age 12. In addition, a trend interaction term provided partial support for the hypothesis that pre-adolescents exposed to family adversity may benefit in particular from maternal mind-mindedness. We discuss the possible mechanisms underpinning these findings and their implications for clinical interventions to reduce disruptive behavior in adolescence.