Personality Function, Dysfunction, and the Social Domains Organisation of Mentalizing Processes

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In this three-part Papers Podcast, Professor Jonathan Hill discusses his JCPP paper ‘The social domains organization of mentalizing processes in adolescents: a contribution to the conceptualization of personality function and dysfunction in young people’ (

Part One explores the controversy surrounding personality function and dysfunction.

Discussion points include:

  • Definition of personality functioning and dysfunction.
  • The subjective experience of personality dysfunction and impact on life choices.
  • How to differentiate personality function and dysfunction.
  • How to differentiate between normal adolescent changes and personality dysfunction.
  • The developmental factors are associated with the emergence of personality dysfunction.


Part Two focuses on mentalizing, the mentalizing processes, and social domains.

Discussion points include:

  • Definition of mentalizing and when the ability to mentalize arises developmentally.
  • How the concept of mentalizing relates to personality dysfunction.
  • An overview of the social domains hypothesis and how this relates to mentalising.
  • The different types of social domains and what is meant by domain disorganisation.
  • How do different social domains influence the function and dysfunction of the mentalizing process.


Part Three is an overview of the paper, methodology, key findings, and implications for practice.

Discussion points include:

  • Why they were surprised with the results from the study.
  • The implications of the study from a research perspective.
  • Additional research that is exploring this topic further.
  • Implications of the findings from an intervention or practitioner perspective.

In this series, we speak to authors of papers published in one of ACAMH’s three journals. These are The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (JCPP)The Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) journal; and JCPP Advances.

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Professor Jonathan Hill
Professor Jonathan Hill

The guiding principles in my work are that theoretical and empirical developments need to go hand in hand, with real, and not token, influences on each other. This is a philosophical, scientific and psychotherapeutic stance. Four main strands in my work reflect this perspective:

  • First, the study of developmental processes contributing to vulnerability to mental disorders in children and adolescents, and to resilience. This has been through the UK ‘Wirral Child Health and Development Study’ (WCHADS), the Indian ‘Bangalore Child Health and Development Study’ (WCHADS), and the Colombian, La Sabana Parent-Child Study.
  • Second, the development of a clinically and therapeutically practical framework for understanding and working with, parents and children, the Family Domains Framework (FDF).
  • Third, conceptualization and assessment of personality functioning in adolescence and the transition to adult life.
  • Fourth, identifying distinctive causal processes in biology, with a central role for normativity (correctness vs mistakes), and action, in order to inform hypothesis testing in biological and behavioural research. (Bio and image from the University of Reading)

Transcripts (coming soon)

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