Analysis of the Theory of Mind Indicators in Children from Different Baby Home Social-Emotional Environment



This study examined whether the structure of the theory of mind indicators in the group of institutionalized children would be associated with differences of social-emotional environment in two Russian Baby Homes (BHs), one of which received Training plus Structural Changes (T+SC) intervention, that increased caregiver sensitivity and consistency, the other continued to conduct baseness as usial (No Intervention, NoI) and defined as social-emotionally depriving. The relevant to the theory of mind items of the personal-social scale of the Battelle Developmental Inventory were selected and used to assess children in T+SC (N=70; M=2.37, SD=1.01 years) and NoI (N=50; M=2.18, SD=0.92 years). Results suggested between-group differences in the factor structure for the theory of mind indicators. The main factor for children from NoI reflected development of self-understanding in combination with understanding of adults and peers, while for children from T+SC — of self-understanding in combination with understanding of adults, which might be due to opportunity for children to live in the small size group and interact with more sensitive and consistent primary caregivers. The second factor in both BHs revealed development by children understanding of peer interactions and feelings, and difference between BHs was that for children from depriving NoI environment such understanding was combined with understanding of caregivers’ instructions and rules. Results suggest that children’s environment shapes their theory of mind and that positive changes in institutional caregiving can have some benefits in children’s self-understanding and understanding of other people.

General Information

Keywords: theory of mind, children, institution, socio-emotional environment

Journal rubric: Empirical and Experimental Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Science Foundation, project no. 22-28-00626 “Caregiverchild interaction and theory of mind in children with early institutional experience living in substitute families”.

For citation: Mukhamedrahimov R.Z., Kagarmanov D.I., Sergienko E.A. Analysis of the Theory of Mind Indicators in Children from Different Baby Home Social-Emotional Environment. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2022. Vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 398–409. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2022.401. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


Carr, A., Slade, L., Yuill, N., Sullivan, S., Ruffman, T. (2018). Minding the children: A longitudinal study of mental state talk, theory of mind, and behavioral adjustment from the age of 3 to 10. Social Development, 27 (4), 826–840.

Information About the Authors

Rifkat Z. Mukhamedrahimov, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Head of Division of Child and Parent Mental Health and Early Intervention, Saint-Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Dinar I. Kagarmanov, Postgraduate Student, St Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:

Elena A. Sergienko, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Principal researcher, Laboratory of Psychology of the development of the subject in normal and post-traumatic states, Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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