Does early responsive parenting have a special importance for children's development or is consistency across early childhood necessary?

S. H. Landry, K. E. Smith, P. R. Swank, M. A. Assel, S. Vellet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

360 Scopus citations

Abstract

The role of early versus ongoing maternal responsiveness in predicting cognitive and social development was examined in home visits for mothers, full-term children (n = 103), and medically low-risk (n = 102) and high-risk (n = 77) preterm children at 5 ages. There were 4 maternal clusters based on warm and contingent responsiveness behaviors observed early (at 6, 12, and 24 months) and late (at 3 and 4 years): high early, high late; high early, low late; low early, moderate late; and low early, low late. Children, especially preterm children, showed faster cognitive growth when mothers were consistently responsive. Social growth was similar in the consistently responsive (high-high) and the early-responsive inconsistent (high-low) clusters, but greater deceleration at 4 years among children with mothers in the inconsistent cluster refuted the notion of a unique role for early responsiveness. The importance of consistent responsiveness, defined by an affective-emotional construct, was evident even when a broader constellation of parenting behaviors was considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-403
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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