Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Diana Morelen

Committee Members

Wallace Dixon, John Ellis, Matthew Tolliver


Positive parenting practices and secure attachments are consistently linked to healthy child outcomes (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991; Waters et al., 2000). Research on cognitive processes that scaffold parental behaviors which contribute to secure attachment is an essential contribution to the literature, particularly given the potential for early intervention with at-risk families. Parental Reflective Functioning (PRF) is a construct of increasing interest which has been linked to secure attachments and positive child outcomes, with one commonly used self-report measure of PRF being the Parental Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (PRFQ; Camoirano, 2017; Clingensmith, 2021; Luyten et al., 2017). As such, the purpose of this dissertation was to examine the relationship between self-reported PRF via the PRFQ and observed parenting behaviors within a sample of mother-child dyads. Participants were mother-child dyads with high psychosocial risk that were engaged in a 10-week attachment-based parenting program. The sample size for participating dyads who completed some portion of the study battery was n = 77; however, the sample size for mothers who completed all segments of the study battery was n = 26. Study results indicated that higher scores on two of the PRFQ subscales (Interest and Curiosity, Certainty of Mental States) predicted lower levels of observed parental sensitivity. These findings lend some support to literature which suggests the PRFQ may capture more maladaptive dimensions of reflective functioning. The discussion explores the significant findings, offers considerations of the non-significant results, and offers avenues for future research.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.