The parental reflective functioning (PRF) is the parents’ capacity to comprehend the developing mind of their child and the abilty to reflect on them. Although PRF is considered at the root of parental sensitive responding in interaction with infants and, in turn, to help the child to develop emotional regulation ability, few studies have investigated PRF and the child adjustment. Two previous longitudinal studies have shown that mothers’ low mentalizing increased the risk of later conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder at 10 years old (Centifanti et al., 2016; Meins et al, 2013). To date, the literature on PRF focused mainly on mothers and few studies have investigated differences between mothers’ and fathers’ PRF (Luyten et al., 2017). Because fathers' PRF capacities have been associated with socioemotional development of their children, it seems important to determine whether PRF is similar or different in fathers and mothers in preschool age children. The present study aims to evaluate in a sample of 238 parents (119 mothers + 119 fathers) of children of 24-36 months of age, mothers’ and fathers’ PRF and its association with their children’s internalizing and externalizing difficulties. Parents filled in the Parental Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (Luyten et al., 2009) and the Strengths Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997). Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and correlations were performed. Data shows significant differences on PRF, with mothers reporting higher PRF (F(1,238)=8,97, p=.003, χ2=.043) than fathers. No child’s gender-related differences were found. Only for fathers low PRF resulted to be significantly correlated with children’s internalizing problems (r= -.258**). These findings contribute to the understanding of the importance of PRF for child’s adjustment and stimulate the creation of new opportunities for prevention and intervention, paying particular attention to fathers’ involvement.
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