Fields of Research
  • Mentalizing, Parental embodied mentalizing, nonverbal interactions, parent-infant, 

  • maternal sensitivity, Attachment, coparenting, prenatal family relations, triadic family interactions, transition to parenthood.  

Dr. Mcdevitt Shai Dana
School of Nursing Science

Short Bio

Dana Shai, Ph.D., psychologist, is a faculty member at the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo, and the founding director of SEED (Study of Early Emotional Development) Center and head of the Departmental Developmental Lab. 


Dr. Shai focuses on infants’ early relational development and parenting, with particular interest in nonverbal interactive processes called Parental Embodied Mentalizing (PEM; Shai & Belsky, 2011). PEM is a theoretical , empirical and clinical approach that focuses on nonverbal relationship between parents and their young children and on the parental capacity to understand the infant's mental state based on the infant’s whole body kinesthetic expressions and adjust their own kinesthetic patterns accordingly in order to respond suitably to the infant’s mentalistic expressions (Shai & Belsky, 2011). 

Research shows that PEM predicts emotional, cognitive and social development and is associated with parental factors. Dr. Shai also studies parenting, the transition to parenthood, coparental relationships and the child’s early social and emotional development within the family matrix. She does so while launching a large-scale mixed method ongoing longitudinal study following 109 couples over multiple time points from pregnancy to the age of seven. The research is aimed to further illuminate the child’s cognitive, emotional, and social development overtime as a function of familial processes, parenting factors, and parent-infant relationships. The chief constructs examined in the study are: mentalizing, parenting, romantic relationships, parent-child interactions, attachment, sensory and emotional regulation, sleep, co-parenting and family alliance. 

The research employs a mixed-method approach, including self-reports, in depth interviews, observational, hormonal genetic, and physiological measures, in order to study different phenoma from psycho-biological perspective. 

Selected Publications

  1. Borelli, J. L., Shai, D., Fogel Yaakobi, S., Levit‐Binnun, N., & Golland, Y. (2019). Interpersonal physiological regulation during couple support interactions: Examining the role of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and emotional support. Psychophysiology, e13443.

  2. Borelli, J.L., Shai, D., Smiley, P., Boparai, S., Rasmussen, H.F., & Granger, D.A. (2019). Mother-Child Adrenocortical Synchrony: Roles of Maternal Overcontrol and Child Developmental Phase. Developmental psychobiology, 61(8), 1120-1134.‏ISO 690.

  3. Borelli, J. L., Slade, A., Pettit, C., & Shai, D. (2020). I “get” you, babe: Reflective functioning in partners transitioning to parenthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(6), 1785-1805.‏

  4. Shai, D. (2018). The Inconsolable Doll Task Prenatal coparenting behavioral dynamics under stress predicting child cognitive development at 18 months. Infant Behavior and Development, 56, 101254.

  5. Shai, D., & Belsky, J. (2011). When words just won’t do Introducing parental embodied mentalizing. Child Development Perspectives, 5(3), 173-180.‏

  6. Shai, D., & Belsky, J. (2011). Parental embodied mentalizing Let’s be explicit about what we mean by implicit. Child Development Perspectives, 5(3), 187-188.‏

  7. Shai, D., & Belsky, J. (2017). Parental embodied mentalizing How the nonverbal dance between parents and infants predicts children’s socio-emotional functioning.Attachment & human development, 19(2), 191-219

  8. Shai, D., Dollberg, D., & Szepsenwol, O. (2017). The importance of parental verbal and embodied mentalizing in shaping parental experiences of stress and coparenting. Infant Behavior and Development, 49, 87-96.‏ ISO 690

  9. Shai, D., & Fonagy, P. (2014). Beyond words: parental embodied mentalizing and the parent-infant dance. In M. Mikulincer, P. R. Shaver (Eds), The Herzliya series on personality and social psychology. Mechanisms of social connection: from brain to group (pp. 185–203). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  10. Shai, D., & Meins, E. (2018). Parental Embodied Mentalizing and its Relation to Mind‐Mindedness, Sensitivity, and Attachment Security. Infancy, 23(6), 857-872.‏

  11. Witte, A. M., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Szepsenwol, O., & 

  12. Shai, D. (2019). Predicting infant–father attachment: the role of pre-and postnatal triadic family alliance and paternal testosterone levels. Attachment & human development, DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2019.1680713.

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