What is the Research Basis of the Meaning of the Child Interview?

The Meaning of the Child Interview is based upon almost 30 years of research into the ways in which adult speak about their relationships, and what this reveals about how these relationships function.


Particular use is made of Crittenden’s work on the Adult Attachment Interview (Crittenden and Landini 2011), which is a development of Bowlby’s understanding of defensive processes; the way in which the brain processes information about relationships and threat in order to stay safe (Grey and Farnfield, 2017a, 2017b).


Also central is Fonagy’s research into Reflective Functioning (Fonagy 2006, Fonagy et al. 2004), the human ability to understand behaviour in relationships in terms of underlying mental states, and its application to parenting (Slade 2005), as well as Solomon and George’s (e.g. 2008) work on representations of caregiving.  In particular, use is made of the idea of trauma resulting in a retreat to earlier stages of the development of mentalisation, in particular, the contrast between ‘psychic equivalence’, where mental states are thought to be naively ‘real’ (to replicate reality rather than be an idea of it), and so insufficient distinction is made between inner and outer reality; and ‘pretend’ mentalising, where the parents understanding of their and others mental states is theoretical and even imaginary, ‘decoupled’ and disconnected from the parents’s inner reality, as their actual experiences is too threatening to actively process (Fonagy et al. 2004).


“The Motc Interview has given me a structured and focused assessment which has enable me to explore the relationship between the parent and child. It has given me more confidence as a professional and I feel more confident in my assessments. I cannot believe what wealth of information I have gathered using the Motc interview. I would genuinely and whole heartily recommend this training for everyone who works with families.”
Social Worker, Northern Ireland

The Validation of the Meaning of the Child



The Meaning of the Child has been used extensively in the Family Court arena since 2010. It has been directly researched in its own right (Grey 2014, Grey and Farnfield 2017b), in a ‘at risk’ sample, and with parents with no statutory involvement. It is one of only comparable tools to be validated with fathers as well as mothers.


MotC classifications were compared with the CARE-Index (Crittenden 2007), a well-validated measure of parent-child relationships, assessed through examining videos of the parent-child play. The CARE-Index identifies similar patterns to the MotC, but through observation of face-to-face interaction, rather than interviewing parents.


A very strong positive correlation was found between MotC Sensitivity/Risk and CARE-Index sensitivity (coefficient = 0.80, p < 0.000). Statistically significant positive correlations were also found between Control and Unresponsiveness in both procedures (Grey and Farnfield 2017b).


There was also a very strong positive correlation between MotC Sensitivity and Parental Reflective Functioning (Grey 2014).