The Parent Development Interview (PDI)

The Parent Development Interview (PDI, Aber et al, 1985, Slade et al, 2003) is a 45 item semi-structured clinical interview intended to examine parents’ representations of their children, themselves as parents, and their relationships with their children. Analogous to the Adult attachment interview AAI (George, Kaplan & Main, 1984), the PDI is intended to assess internal working models of relationships. Unlike the AAI, in which adults are asked about their past relationships with their parents, the PDI elicits representations regarding a current, ongoing, “live” relationship that is still evolving, that of the parent with her child. The parent is asked to describe her child’s behaviour, thoughts, and feelings in various situations, as well as her responses to her child in these situations. Caregivers are also asked to describe themselves as parents and to discuss emotions stimulated by the experience of parenting. The interview strives in a number of ways to tap into parents’ understanding of their child’s behaviour, thoughts, and feelings, and asks the parents to provide real life examples of charged interpersonal moments: “Describe a time in the last week when you and your child really clicked”, and then “a time when you and your child really didn’t click”. Such questions provide a direct means to evaluate the parent’s understanding of her/his own and her/his child’s internal experience at times of heightened affective arousal.

This can help the team to understand the relationship between a parent/caregiver and their child in more depth to allow the team to provide guidance to the family and those supporting and engaging with them.

Reflective functioning is the operationalized referent to the capacity to mentalize that can be scored in narrative. Parental RF (Slade, 2005), as distinct from more general mentalizing processes, plays a particularly important role in the intergenerational transmission of attachment (Fonagy et al., 1995; Slade, et al., 2005). The benign and nurturing interaction with the caregiver also helps the child to regulate his own affect responses such that they become manageable, allowing the child and ultimately the adult to anticipate future affect experiences without fear of becoming overwhelmed and disintegrating. Self-other differentiation promotes the capacity to mentalize which, in turn, permits the individual to reflect on his own affect as well as that of others in such a way that he is afforded the ability to experience and communicate affect rather than impulsively act without understanding the mental state behind the action.

If you would like to hear more about this or other tools which inform our assessment and understanding of children and families please get in touch with us.