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Gazzetta Medica Italiana Archivio per le Scienze Mediche 2013 May;172(5):361-72

language: Italian

The internal working model of caregiving system and parental reflective function: theoretical and methodological implications

Zaccagnino M. 1, Vianzone S. 2, 3, Visioli C. 3, Veglia F. 3

1 Unità di Neuro-Riabilitazione Precoce, Unità Operativa di Neuropsichiatria dell’Infanzia e dell’Adolescenza, Spedali Civili, Brescia, Italia;
2 Istituto di Psicologia e Sociologia della Comunicazione Università della Svizzera Italiana;
3 Dipartimento di Psicologia Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italia


The first bond established between the child and his caregiver is fundamental for the emotional, social and cognitive growth of the child himself. This bond is called Attachment and is one of the main objects of study in psychology. Moreover, during the last few years the attention is being concentrated more and more on the representations that the parent builds of himself as a caregiver, the child and the relationship that is established between the two. Reflective Function, the ability to understand behavior in light of underlying mental states and intentions, takes special importance as related to the formation of a secure attachment. The ability of the caregiver to hold in his mind a representation of the child as a person with feelings, desires and intentions allows the child to discover his mental states, just through the representation that the parent made of them. This representation is constructed in different ways at different stages of child development and caregiver-child interaction. The observation that the caregiver does, in different moments, of the changes of the child’s mental states, and the representations that is constructed of its first gestures and actions (representation that successively will pass through words and game), represents the mainstay of sensitive care.

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