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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology