Let’s talk: parents’ mental talk (not mind-mindedness or mindreading capacity) predicts children’s false belief understanding

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  • University of Cambridge


While one might expect parents’ mind-mindedness (MM; the propensity to view children as mental agents) to relate to everyday mental-state talk (MST) and theory-of-mind capacity, evidence to support this view is lacking. In addition, both the uniqueness and the specificity of relations between parental MM, parental MST and children’s false belief understanding (FBU) are open to question. To address these three gaps, this study tracked 117 preschoolers (60 boys) and their parents across a 13-month period (Mage = 3.94 years, SD = 0.53, at Time 1). Parental MM, MST and theory-of-mind capacity showed little overlap. Both MM and MST were weakly associated with children’s concurrent FBU, but, in line with social constructivist accounts, only MST predicted later FBU.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1253
Number of pages18
JournalChild Development
Issue number4
Early online date8 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2019