The purpose of this paper is to report on the initial validation of a new method, called the “Meaning of the Child Interview” (MotC), to assess the psychological meaning all children have for their parents, but which in cases of risk, submerge or distort the child’s identity. The MotC analyses parental discourse using a method developed from the discourse analysis used to classify the Adult Attachment Interview together with patterns derived from the infant CARE-Index, a procedure that evaluates face-to-face parent-child interaction. This allows the MotC to illuminate how the parent’s thinking influences the developing relationship between parent and child.
Parents are interviewed using the Parent Development Interview (PDI), or an equivalent, and then the interview transcript is classified using the MotC system. The coding method was developed from interviews drawn from the first author’s work with children and families in the family court system, and then tested with a sample of 85 mothers and fathers, 62 of whom were parents drawn from an “at risk” context. The parents were also videoed in a short free play interaction, using the CARE-Index.
The study found a strong correspondence between the levels of risk as assessed by the MotC patterns of parental representation of care giving, the risk to the parent-child relationship observed using the CARE-Index. There was also corroboration of the patterns of interaction identified by the MotC.
The results of the study provide good evidence for the Meaning of the Child as an identifiable construct, and as an assessment tool to identify and assess the nature of “at risk” parent-child relationships. MotC was developed in a clinical setting within the Family Court justice system, and is designed to offer assistance to child protection and mental health practitioners deciding how to intervene in particular parent-child relationships.
There are no conflicts of interest to declare in relation to this research. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this paper. Ethical approval was granted by the University of Roehampton, London, Ref: PT 10/ 049. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee.
Grey, B. and Farnfield, S. (2017), "The Meaning of the Child Interview (MotC) – the initial validation of a new procedure for assessing and understanding the parent-child relationships of “at risk” families", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 16-31. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-03-2016-0006
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