Maternal sensitivity in a developing society: the context of urban poverty and infant chronic undernutrition

Dev Psychol. 1997 Sep;33(5):845-55. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.33.5.845.


This study focuses on young children's chronic undernutrition and its association with maternal sensitivity, sociodemographic variables, children's play, and problem-solving measures. Data were obtained with home observations and laboratory procedures on 85 mothers and infants (M age = 18 months) in a low-income urban population in Santiago, Chile. Maternal sensitivity was correlated with maternal education, maternal weight, and marital satisfaction. Observed in a variety of maternal roles, maternal sensitivity was also significantly associated with children's nutritional status, attachment security, and mastery behavior. These findings demonstrate the relevance of the maternal sensitivity construct outside industrialized societies and underline the need for intervention strategies to extend beyond nutritional supplementation to address deficits of maternal care associated with specific caregiver's roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Chile
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries* / economics
  • Family Health* / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / ethnology
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / psychology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior* / ethnology
  • Maternal Behavior* / psychology
  • Mother-Child Relations / ethnology
  • Object Attachment
  • Observation
  • Parenting / ethnology
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Poverty*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Behavior
  • Urban Health* / classification