Exploring maternal reflective functioning as a predictor of mother-child dyadic behaviour over time in a clinical context

Lindsey Myers, Howard Steele, Miriam Steele, Anne Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The current study examined 20 participants from group attachment based intervention (GABI), who completed the adult attachment interviews (AAI; George, et al., 1985) as part of a RCT to test the efficacy of GABI compared with treatment as usual, in order to explore the possible benefits higher RF for treatment outcome in terms of interactive mother and child behaviour. Mothers’ AAIs were analyzed using the reflective functioning (RF) rating scale (Fonagy, et al., 1998), yielding overall RF scores, prompted/demand RF scores, and spontaneous RF scores, and parent-child dyadic interactive behaviour was coded utilizing the coding interactive behaviour (CIB: Feldman, 1998) manual. Children’s age ranged from 2-25 months, mean=14 months. 86.7% of the sample identified English as their primary language, with 13.3% identified speaking both Spanish and English. RF in AAIs obtained at intake from some GABI mothers was expected to be linked to the quality of the parent-child interaction (observed with the CIB), at intake (T1), at end-of treatment T2), and at six-month follow-up (T3). Results confirmed this impression insofar as lower overall RF was linked to T1 levels of higher intrusiveness from mothers. At end of treatment (T2), mothers’ higher spontaneous RF scores were significantly linked to maternal praising (of the nly child), child positive affect, child alertness. At 6-month follow up (T3), mother’s spontaneous RF scores correlated significantly and positively with maternal elaborating with child positive affect. Discussion focuses on the importance of assessing RF in parents entering therapy with their children as it may provide insight into what parent or child behaviours may be targeted. And the RF scores will highlight which mothers need special attention to stimulate their interest and attention to attachment-related processes in themselves, and in their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalResearch in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Reflective functioning
  • adult attachment interview
  • coding interactive behaviour
  • group attachment based intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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