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Interactions between Mothers and Their Young Children: Characteristics and Consequences

K. Alison Clarke-Stewart
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 38, No. 6/7, Interactions between Mothers and Their Young Children: Characteristics and Consequences (Dec., 1973), pp. 1-109
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1165928
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1165928
Page Count: 113
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Interactions between Mothers and Their Young Children: Characteristics and Consequences
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Abstract

The present study examined relations between behaviors of mothers and children. Over a 9-month period repeated observations were made of 36 mothers and their firstborn children (9-18 months old) as they interacted at home, spontaneously and in structured situations. Ratings, frequencies, and measures of contingencies between sequential maternal and child behaviors were based on these observations. Infant variables. Measures of competence in all areas of development-cognitive, language, and social-were highly intercorrelated. On these measures white children scored consistently higher than black children. They also smiled, vocalized, and moved more, and were less physically attached to their mothers-differences which increased as the children got older. Sex differences which increased with age were also observed: boys became more object oriented; girls more socially oriented. A change observed for all children was an increasing interest in the physical environment and a decreasing amount of interaction with the mother. Maternal variables. One complex factor subsumed all measures of "optimal" maternal care: expression of affection, social stimulation, contingent responsiveness, acceptance of the child's behavior, stimulation and effectiveness with materials, and appropriateness of maternal behavior for the child's age and ability. Changes over time, and race and sex differences paralleled those found for infant variables. Mother-child relations. A highly significant linear relation was found between the factors of children's competence and mothers' care. Within this broad pattern, specific relations were found between children's language development and mothers' verbal stimulation, children's skill with objects and mothers' presentation of play materials, and mothers' and children's positive social behavior toward each other. Further analyses of relations between factors revealed that maternal restrictiveness was related to the child's involvement with objects, maternal effectiveness to the child's irritability, and maternal cuddling to the child's physical attachment to the mother. Nonlinear relations between the mother's behavior and the quality of the child's attachment were demonstrated. Children's development was related differentially to maternal stimulation, responsiveness, and appropriateness; children's activities to the mother's preferred mode of interaction. The analysis of relations over time suggested that stimulating, responsive maternal behavior influenced the child's intellectual development, whereas in the area of social relations the child's behavior influenced the mother.

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