Academic staff – University of Copenhagen

Department of Psychology > Academic staff

Katharina Cordes

Katharina Cordes


Primary fields of research

Infant Mental Health, Attachment, Reflective Functioning, Mentalizing, Non-verbal Mother-Infant Interaction

Current research

Infant attachment style predicts a number of socio-emotional outcomes across infancy and childhood and is therefore an important factor for long-term development (Sroufe, 2005). Previous research has shown that attachment styles are transmitted intergenerationally, with secure parents more likely having secure children and insecure parents more likely having insecure children at one year of age (Fonagy et al., 1995). However, the exact processes of attachment transmission remain elusive (van IJzendoorn, 1995). The aim of the current project is to investigate the role of mentalizing (as verbally and embodied expressed) in the intergenerational transmission of attachment with a special focus on differences between non-clinical and postpartum depressed mothers.

60 non-clinical mother-infant dyads are compared with 30 mother-infant dyads with mothers diagnosed with Postpartum Depression with and without comorbid Personality Disorder. The PhD-project is embedded in a longitudinal study of the Copenhagen University (CPHU) Babylab.

The first aim of the project is to assess verbally expressed mentalizing capacities. For this purpose, Reflective Functioning is coded on the Adult Attachment Interview with the Reflective Functioning Scale (RFS; Fonagy et al., 1998). As a second aim of the project, associations between Reflective Functioning levels and psychopathological risk status (non-clinical, only Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Depression and Personality Disorder) and maternal behavior as expressed in the mother-infant interaction are compared. For this, videotaped mother-infant interactions will be coded with the Coding Interactive Behavior Measure (Feldman, 1998).  Additionally, the interaction will be analyzed with an automated motion capture system (Qualysis Track Manager, QTM; Qualysis Inc., Gothenburg, Sweden) to determine how much mother and infant interact in each other’s personal space. Personal space is here based on the description of the movement quality “personal space”, as defined in the Parental Embodied Mentalizing Measure (Shai, 2010).

Consequently, the overall aim of the project is to capture Mentalizing on a representational level and its expression in the mother-infant interaction, to evaluate potential influences on infant attachment.

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