The Meaning of the Child Interview (MotC)

Ben Grey, Stephen Farnfield

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report on the initial validation of a new method, called the “Meaningof the Child Interview” (MotC), to assess the psychological meaning all children have for their parents, butwhich in cases of risk, submerge or distort the child’s identity. The MotC analyses parental discourse using amethod developed from the discourse analysis used to classify the Adult Attachment Interview together withpatterns derived from the infant CARE-Index, a procedure that evaluates face-to-face parent-childinteraction. This allows the MotC to illuminate how the parent’s thinking influences the developing relationshipbetween parent and child.Design/methodology/approach – 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 methodwas developed from interviews drawn from the first author’s work with children and families in the family courtsystem, 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.Findings – The study found a strong correspondence between the levels of risk as assessed bythe MotC patterns of parental representation of care giving, the risk to the parent-child relationshipobserved using the CARE-Index. There was also corroboration of the patterns of interaction identified bythe MotC.Originality/value – The results of the study provide good evidence for the Meaning of the Child as anidentifiable construct, and as an assessment tool to identify and assess the nature of “at risk” parent-childrelationships. MotC was developed in a clinical setting within the Family Court justice system, and is designedto offer assistance to child protection and mental health practitioners deciding how to intervene in particularparent-child relationships.

© 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited. This is an author produced version of a paper published in JOURNAL OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link below. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-31
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Children's Services
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2017


  • Attachment, Risk assessment, Family assessment, Meaning of the Child Interview, Parent-child relationships, Reflective functioning

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