A comparison of maternal sensitivity and verbal stimulation as unique predictors of infant social-emotional and cognitive development

M. Page Melissa, Mari S. Wilhelm, Wendy C. Gamble, Noel A. Card

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although maternal sensitivity has been shown to influence social-emotional development, the role of verbal stimulation on infant developmental outcomes has received less exploration. Recent research has focused on intentional behaviors within the context of a mother-infant interaction as a critical influence and as distinct from sensitivity. In this investigation 6377 mother-infant dyads participated in a teaching task as part of the sample from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). Analyses focused in deciphering the role of maternal sensitivity and verbal stimulation as contributors to the infant's social-emotional (S-E) and cognitive (Cog) development. We further hypothesized that inclusion of infant age as a moderator of maternal behaviors would illuminate any differences between younger and older infants. Results: For the infant's S-E development, our hypothesis that maternal sensitivity would be a stronger predictor than verbal stimulation was not supported; nor did we find support for our hypothesis that the association would be moderated by age. For Cog development, only verbal stimulation had a direct positive effect on the infant's cognitive ability; our findings for moderation showed that mothers spoke more to older infants than younger infants. Conclusion: Identification of specific maternal behaviors associated with infant outcomes informs the child development field, and also provides strategies for early intervention to assist mothers with developing or maintaining a consistent relationship that includes sensitivity and verbal stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-110
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010

Keywords

  • Cognitive
  • Maternal sensitivity
  • Social-emotional
  • Verbal stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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