Developmental correlates and predictors of emotional availability in mother-child interaction: a longitudinal study from infancy to middle childhood

Dev Psychopathol. 2012 Feb;24(1):65-78. doi: 10.1017/S0954579411000666.


In this investigation we examined the developmental correlates and predictors of maternal emotional availability in interactions with their 7-year-old children among a sample of families at psychosocial risk. We found developmental coherence in maternal interactive behavior, and in the relations between maternal emotional availability and children's functioning in middle childhood. Mothers and children were observed at home and in a laboratory playroom in infancy to assess maternal interactive behavior and child attachment security. When children were 7 years of age, dyads were observed in the lab; maternal emotional availability was coded using the Emotional Availability Scales, and children's disorganized and controlling attachment behavior was assessed. Classroom teachers reported on children's behavior problems; at age 8, children reported on their depressive symptoms. Results showed that aspects of maternal emotional availability (sensitivity, nonhostility, nonintrusiveness [passive/withdrawn behavior]) were associated with children's functioning in middle childhood: (a) controlling and disorganized attachment behavior, (b) behavior problems in school, and (c) self-reported depressive symptoms. Maternal emotional availability in childhood was predicted by early mother-infant relationship dysfunction (maternal hostility, disrupted communication, and infant attachment insecurity).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Object Attachment*
  • Personality Development