The Influence of Complexity of Maternal Thoughts on Sensitive Parenting and Children's Social Responsiveness

Cynthia L. Miller-Loncar, Susan H. Landry, Karen E. Smith, Paul R. Swank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This study examined whether complexity in mothers' early thoughts of child development related directly to later child social responsiveness versus indirectly via maternal interactive behaviors. Two hundred eighty-seven families with a low socioeconomic status were evaluated longitudinally across 1, 2, and 412 years of age. The study included children known to vary in their early development to examine whether variability in children's early cognitive and perceptual-motor skills were also important in understanding mothers' parenting behaviors and children's later social responsiveness. As hypothesized, the influence of early maternal thoughts on children's later social responsiveness was indirect through its relation with mothers' warm sensitivity at 2 years of age, which showed a direct, positive influence on children's social responsiveness at 412 years of age. Although variability in children's early developmental skills did not directly influence their later social responsiveness, these skills did significantly predict mother's use of maintaining, which was significantly related to warm sensitivity. Results demonstrated the importance of a parent's ability to think complexly about children to understand the use of behaviors that promote more optimal social outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-356
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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