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Infant Mental Health Week – How can we make a difference?

16th June 2017

In support of Infant Mental Health Week #IMHAW17, a blog by Sue Adams, Health Visitor, Solent NHS Trust, on how health visitors can make a difference and feels very passionate about the research below:


How can we make a difference?

By asking these simple questions, we can make a difference to the relationship a mother (or carer) has with their infant:

‘what’s on…..mind today’

‘what would your baby say now if your baby could talk?’

‘tell me about your baby’

Try thinking about, and if it feels right, ask these questions (in one form or another) over the course of Infant Mental Health week. If you have time, share how you get on!

The Evidence Base

Recent research suggests this simple intervention reduces ‘non-attuned’ responses and promotes appropriate responses, a mother’s ability to interpret and verbalise her baby’s thoughts or motivations, can be used to predict infant attachment security (see below).

Mind-Mindedness

Elizabeth Meins (psychologist) has classified mind-related comments into two types, appropriate and non-attuned and considered whether they can be used as predictors for secure attachment.

An ‘appropriate mind-related comment focuses on whether parents commented appropriately on what the baby might be thinking or feeling. A comment would be classified as appropriate if it matches the child’s behaviour: ‘Are you making a decision about something?’ (as the baby sits quietly with a pensive expression on her face).

A ‘non-attuned mind-related comment was when a parent attributed an inappropriate internal state to the baby: ‘You’re not interested in that toy anymore?’ (while the baby is still actively engaged with the toy).

A parent who makes a lot of ‘appropriate responses would be considered to be highly mind-minded, whilst a parent who made more ‘non-attuned responses would be considered to be relatively low in mind-mindedness.

In the four attachment categories non-attunedcomments were significantly lower in securely attached infants, compared to the other three categories. There was also a less significant, but higher level of appropriatecomments in infants with secure attachments.

Over all,  mind-minded carers had a higher level of ‘appropriate responses and a lower level of ‘non-attunedresponses.

(Fernyhough C. and Meins E. ‘Mind-Mindedness as a Multidimensional Construct: Appropriate and Nonattuned Mind-Related Comments Independently Predict Infant-Mother Attachment in a Socially Diverse Sample’ International Society on Infant Studies, 2012).

Sue Adams