Objective. Mental-state talk is an important aspect of parenting, but it is not clear whether this type of talk is structurally distinct from behavioral support or sensitivity. Although assessment of sensitive, supportive behavior captures a mother’s responses to her child’s needs, mental-state talk assesses a mother’s consideration of (and comments on) her child’s inner world. This study examined the structure and antecedents of mental-state talk, behavioral support, and sensitivity. Design. Data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were used, and mothering was assessed during a laboratory session when children were 24 months old (N = 1114). Results. Confirmatory factor analyses provided support for the hypothesized three-factor model, in which maternal supportive behavior, cognitive talk, and desire/emotion talk formed distinct factors. Furthermore, maternal depressive symptoms assessed at 1 and 6 months predicted less supportive behavior, whereas traditional parenting beliefs assessed at 1 month predicted lower levels of all three mothering outcomes. Conclusion. Maternal talk about mental states is a unique component of parenting, and cognitive talk is distinct from desire and emotion talk.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology