ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State: Parents Who Interpret Kids’ Mental States Build Closer Bonds

Parents’ ability to interpret their children’s behavior by understanding their kids’ feelings and motivations leads to better parent-child relationships, according to a recent study by researchers from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

whitney rostad
[Photo: Dr. Whitney L. Rostad]

The study involved 79 caregivers, who were recruited in a medium-sized Montana town through local agencies and programs that serve low-income families or are involved with child welfare services. The caregivers completed several questionnaires that assessed various aspects of their relationships with their children, as well as any substance use and depression suffered by the caregivers.

The study’s results are published in the paper titled “The Association Between Reflective Functioning and Parent-Child Relationship Quality,” in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. The study’s authors are Dr. Whitney L. Rostad, a postdoctoral research associate in the school’s National SafeCare Training and Research Center (NSTRC), and the NSTRC director, Dr. Daniel J. Whitaker.

The results of the study suggest that the capacity of parents to reflect on the mental states of their children may be a key to interventions that aim to improve parent-child relationships, the researchers concluded.

“A caregiver with this capacity for understanding can enjoy more positive interactions with his or her child and enjoy a higher quality relationship with him or her, and as a consequence, derive more satisfaction as a parent,” the researchers stated.

The study also noted that the more parents struggle to take their children’s perspective into account, the less satisfaction they report in their parental roles and, consequently, the less communication and involvement they report having with their children.