Infant and parent factors associated with early maternal sensitivity: A caregiver-attachment systems approach

W. Roger Mills-Koonce, Jean Louis Gariépy, Cathi Propper, Kelly Sutton, Susan Calkins, Ginger Moore, Martha Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examined variations in maternal sensitivity at 6 months of child age as a function of child negativity and maternal physiology. We expected maternal vagal withdrawal in response to infant negative affect to facilitate the maintenance of sensitivity, but only for mothers of securely attached children. One hundred and forty-eight infant-mother dyads were observed in multiple contexts at 6 months of child age, and associations among maternal and child variables were examined with respect to 12-month attachment quality. Mothers of later securely attached children were more sensitive than mothers of avoidant children. However, sensitivity decreased for all mothers at high levels of infant negative affect. Furthermore, for mothers of avoidant children, vagal withdrawal was associated with sensitivity to child distress. No association was found between vagal withdrawal and sensitivity for mothers of securely attached children. This suggests that mothers of avoidant children may be uniquely challenged by the affective demands of their infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-126
Number of pages13
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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