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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2002 Oct;43(7):861-72.

Maternal predictors of children's social cognition: an attachment perspective.

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The Anna Freud Centre, University College London, UK.



This paper assumes that the capacities to (1) openly acknowledge, and (2) elaborate a resourceful plan for coping with distress in the self and others are central features of social cognition.


These capacities were assessed in a sample (N = 51) of 11-year-old children whose mothers and fathers had previously provided Adult Attachment Interviews (AAIs) before their children were born. The children were shown six line-drawn sequences of child(ren), with peer(s) and/or family in diverse situations involving some moderate distress. The experimenter described the adversity shown in the sequence (e.g., bully pushing over another school-aged child in the presence of onlookers) and then invited the child to attribute thoughts and feelings to the characters, and comment upon what might happen next.


Children whose responses scored highly for acknowledgement of the distress, and elaborating a resolution, were significantly more likely to have had mothers (but not fathers) whose AAIs were judged autonomous-secure as opposed to insecure (i.e., dismissing, preoccupied and/or unresolved). The significant influence of maternal representations of attachment upon the 11-year outcome remained even after taking account of concurrent parenting attitudes, children's verbal intelligence, as well as the previously assessed infant-parent attachment patterns.


Discussion concerns the differential predictive power of maternal responses to the Adult Attachment Interview as related to the domain of children's social and emotional understanding.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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