Mind-mindedness and parenting stress in mothers of preterm and full-term infants: The moderating role of perceived social support

Chiara Suttora, Nicoletta Salerni, Elena Selvagno, Matteo Porro, Silvana Gangi, Chiara Squarza, Laura Gardon, Odoardo Picciolini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this study was to examine the effects of preterm birth and maternal childbirth-related posttraumatic stress and parenting stress on maternal mind-mindedness (MM). The study also investigated the effects of perceived social support on parenting stress and MM. Sixty-five preterm (N = 32) and full-term (N = 33) mother–infant dyads were observed at 6 months. Measures of maternal MM were obtained from observations of mother–infant interaction. Mothers also provided ratings of their posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, parenting stress, and perceived social support via an online survey. Experiencing a preterm birth did not affect mothers’ use of mental state descriptors during mother–infant interaction. Neither childbirth-related posttraumatic stress nor parenting stress directly affected maternal ability to comment on the child's mental states appropriately. However, at medium and high levels of perceived social support, a negative association between parenting stress and MM was observed. Maternal perception of being emotionally supported by significant others promoted MM in mothers showing low or mild levels of parenting stress, but not in mothers experiencing high stress in parenting their infants. Results suggest that a proclivity to MM might be affected by the interaction between parenting stress and social support, rather than by childbirth-related variables, such as prematurity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-46
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • childbirth-related posttraumatic stress
  • mind-mindedness
  • parenting stress
  • preterm birth
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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