Intergenerational transmission of theory-of-mind


Address for correspondence: Mark A. Sabbagh, Psychology Department, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada; e-mail:
E.L. Seamans is now at the Psychology Department, University of New Brunswick.


We examined whether individual differences in children's performance on a scaled battery of theory-of-mind tasks was predicted by parents’ performance on an adult theory-of-mind task. Forty-six 3-year-old children and their parents participated in this study when children were aged 2;11 to 4;0. Thirty dyads returned 6 months later for a second assessment. After statistically controlling for relevant covariates, we detected a positive correlation between parents’ and children's theory-of-mind scores. The correlation was significant at both time points, and was robust when data were aggregated across the two sessions. These results provide some evidence for intergenerational transmission of theory-of-mind abilities in a typically developing sample, and possible mechanisms underlying this relation are discussed.