Parental Reflective Functioning: An Approach to Enhancing Parent-Child Relationships in Pediatric Primary Care

J Pediatr Health Care. 2015 Jul-Aug;29(4):325-34. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2014.12.002. Epub 2015 Feb 3.


The current state of science suggests that safe, responsive, and nurturing parent-child relationships early in children's lives promotes healthy brain and child development and protection against lifelong disease by reducing toxic stress and promoting foundational social-emotional health. Pediatric health care providers (HCPs) have a unique opportunity to foster these relationships. However, such a role requires a shift in pediatric health care from a focus only on children to one that includes families and communities, as well as the inclusion of children's social and emotional health with their physical health. To foster healthy parent-child relationships, HCPs must develop the expertise to integrate approaches that support the family's socioemotional health into pediatric primary care. This article suggests ways in which pediatric HCPs can integrate a focus on parental reflective functioning into their clinical work, helping parents to understand some of the thoughts and feelings that underlie their children's behavior.

Keywords: Parenting; pediatric health care; reflective functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Education, Nonprofessional / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / education*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Pediatrics
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Treatment Outcome