Proof of Concept of a Brief Online Intervention for Parental Reflective Functioning
Cárdenas, Emilia Francina
Parental reflective functioning, a parent’s ability to mentalize about their child, has been linked to healthy child development. Evidence suggests that depressive symptoms are negatively correlated with mental state reflection and that parental reflective functioning can improve with interventions. We tested the modifiability of parental reflective functioning using a brief online intervention. Parents (N =115) of children between the ages of 18-36 months were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Parents were asked to view photos of children engaged in various activities and randomized to look at the photo (control) or to reflect on the child’s actions (how) or motivations (why). We examined whether the intervention prompting any reflection differed from the control in reports of mental state reflection about their own child, as well as differences between how and why prompts. Further, we explored whether depressive symptoms moderated these associations. We found that instructions to reflect were associated with greater mental state reflection when compared with the control condition (b = 0.17 [95%, 0.04, 0.95]). No significant differences were found in comparing the how and why conditions. Further, we found an interaction between depressive symptoms and intervention in predicting mental state reflection; the effect of intervention on mental state reflection was significant at high (b = 0.58 [95%, 0.36, 1.97]), but not low or moderate, levels of symptoms. Findings provide evidence for the modifiability of parental reflective functioning using a brief online intervention. Parents with greater depressive symptoms may benefit the most from interventions aimed at enhancing parental reflective functioning.