The Psychometric Properties of a Newly Adapted Social Cognitive Measure for Adolescents: The Reflective Function Questionnaire for Youth



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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a challenging disorder characterized by difficulties in interpersonal relationships. To explain the etiology of BPD, Fonagy and colleagues (1991) have developed a social-cognitive (mentalization) based model. The model hypothesizes that secure attachment is the basis from which social-cognitive (mentalizing) capacities develop. According to this model, mentalizing capacity specifically involves the individual’s ability to understand or reflect on the context of, or the causes of, self and others’ thoughts and feelings and is therefore defined as Reflective Function (RF; Fonagy et al., 1991). Several measures have been developed for assessment of reflective function in adults, both interview-based and self-report questionnaires. The interview based measure of reflective function has been adapted for use in children and adolescents (Target, Oandasan, & Ensink, 2001), and a questionnaire based measure of reflective function was adapted by Sharp et al. (2009) for use in adolescents. However, the Reflective Function Questionnaire for Youths (RFQY) has not yet been validated.

The overall aim of the current study was to investigate the reliability and validity of the RFQY in consecutive admissions of inpatient adolescents ages 12-17 (N = 100). Results indicated low internal consistency on the RFQY with all 46 items, but supported both criterion and convergent validity. Discriminant validity analysis of the RFQY revealed significant differences between BPD patients and non-patients. However, follow-up ROC analyses revealed that the RFQY is not sensitive or specific in identifying cases of BPD in an inpatient setting. Overall, this study supports the use of the RFQY as a measure of mentalization for adolescents.



Adolescents, Borderline Personality Disorder, Social cognition, Reflective function, Mentalization, Theory of mind