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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2014 Mar;48(3):249-58. doi: 10.1177/0004867413500350. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Cognitive deconstruction of parenting in schizophrenia: the role of theory of mind.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India.



Schizophrenia patients experience impairments across various functional roles. Emotional unresponsiveness and an inability to foster intimacy and display affection may lead to impairments in parenting. A comprehensive cognitive understanding of parenting abilities in schizophrenia has the potential to guide newer treatment strategies. As part of a larger study on functional ability in schizophrenia patients, we attempted a cognitive deconstruction of their parenting ability.


Sixty-nine of the 170 patients who participated in a study on social cognition in remitted schizophrenia were parents (mean age of their children: 11.8 ± 6.2 years). They underwent comprehensive assessments for neurocognition, social cognition (theory of mind, emotion processing, social perception and attributional bias), motivation and insight. A rater blind to their cognitive status assessed their social functioning using the Groningen Social Disabilities Schedule. We examined the association of their functional ability (active involvement and affective relationship) in the parental role with their cognitive performance as well as with their level of insight and motivation.


Deficits in first- and second-order theory of mind (t = 2.57, p = 0.01; t = 3.2, p = 0.002, respectively), speed of processing (t = 2.37, p = 0.02), cognitive flexibility (t = 2.26, p = 0.02) and motivation (t = 2.64, p = 0.01) had significant association with parental role dysfunction. On logistic regression, second-order theory of mind emerged as a specific predictor of parental role, even after controlling for overall functioning scores sans parental role.


Second-order theory of mind deficits are specifically associated with parental role dysfunction of patients with schizophrenia. Novel treatment strategies targeting theory of mind may improve parenting abilities in individuals with schizophrenia.


Neurocognition; parent–child interactions; schizophrenia; social cognition; theory of mind

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