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17-02-2020 | Original Paper | Uitgave 7/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 7/2020

Does Children’s Mentalizing Mediate the Role of Attachment and Psychological Maladjustment in Middle Childhood?

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 7/2020
Bizzi Fabiola, Charpentier Mora Simone, Ensink Karin, Cavanna Donatella, Borelli Jessica
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This study investigated mentalization, operationalized as Reflective Functioning (RF), focusing on its differential subcomponents (self- and other-focused RF). The interplay between RF, attachment, and psychological maladjustment (operationalized as internalizing and externalizing problems) was examined during middle childhood in the service of forging a better understanding of the mentalizing framework.


A community sample of Italian children aged 8–12 years (N = 96; Mage = 10.41 years, SD = 1.43 years) completed in an individual session the Child Attachment Interview, which later was coded for overall attachment coherence and RF by two separate teams of raters, and verbal comprehension subtests of the WISC-IV. Mothers completed the Child Behavior Checklist, comprising our measure of children’s internalizing and externalizing problems.


Analyses showed that self-focused RF and other-focused RF together mediated the relation between attachment coherence and externalizing problems; further, only self-focused RF mediated the link between attachment coherence and internalizing problems.


These findings contribute to theory and provide potential directions for intervention. Specifically, the findings may imply that targeting children’s self-focused RF as an area of intervention may be more profitable in select psychological problems whereas in other cases it may be more useful to consider mentalizing in its totality. Possible mechanisms underlying these findings are discussed.

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