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Oct. 10, 2022

Research on parental behaviors to positively affect infant mental health

Over the summer, Michigan State University researchers published in "Frontiers in Psychology," a developmental psychology journal, about parental behaviors that positively affect their children’s mental health. Holly Brophy-Herb, professor from the MSU Department of Human and Development Studies, was the lead author and is collaborating with a rich, multi-university team who are working on a series of papers focused on mind-mindedness. 

“Mind-mindedness is the caregiver’s tendency to conceptualize their baby/toddler as a unique person with their own thoughts, goals, intentions, feelings, preferences – we call these mental states – and is characterized by the parent's mind-related comments to their very young children about the children's mental states,” Brophy-Herb said. 

In their paper, “Stressed Mothers Receiving Infant Mental Health-Based Early Head Start increase in Mind-Mindedness,” the research team showed that mothers who were reporting higher parenting stress and who were also receiving home visiting services from specialists trained in infant mental health increased in their ability to engage in mind-mindedness with their toddlers, as compared to the equally stressed peers who were did not receive infant mental health-based EHS home visiting.

“Our research is important because it suggests that providing support to parents who are more stressed may help them to better understand what's going on in their babies’ minds and what their infants and toddlers might be needing and wanting,” she said. “Understanding your baby's mental states helps build a secure relationship with the baby, and that's good for parents and babies.” 

Their research documents the important effects of mind-mindedness on child development. 

For more on the study, visit

By: Katie Nicpon