Theory and Research on the Causes and Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect
Edited by Dante Cicchetti
Edited by Vicki Carlson
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 1989
Online Publication Date:May 2010
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511665707.016
Although the organization and development of mother-infant affective exchange during the first year has received a great deal of attention from developmental researchers, the majority of the work to date has focused on the development of methodologies for describing the construct of sensitive, responsive mothering (Bakeman and Brown, 1977; Belsky, Taylor, and Rovine; 1984; Kaye and Fogel, 1980; Tronick, Als, and Brazelton, 1980). However, the emphasis on assessment of the components of sensitivity has not been matched by an equally careful description of the behaviors characterizing insensitive patterns of mothering. The implicit assumption underlying most previous work has been that maternal insensitivity is adequately defined simply as the absence or opposite of maternal sensitivity. Thus, maternal sensitivity and insensitivity are regarded as quantitatively related along a single theoretical dimension. Support for this conceptualization comes not only from our natural language system regarding the usage of terms like sensitivity but also from factor-analytic studies of mother-infant interaction. These studies have shown that a strong first factor, accounting for 50 percent of the variance or more, reliably emerges and is defined by behaviors such as verbal interaction, maternal responsiveness, maternal positive affect and maternal stimulation (Belsky, Rovine and Taylor, 1984; Clarke-Stewart, 1973). This primary maternal factor is in turn related to positive infant affect and higher developmental scores (e.g., Clarke-Stewart, 1973). The often replicated relationship between maternal verbal responsiveness and high infant mental developmental scores has probably acted to fix attention even more strongly on this general “good mother” construct (e.g., Carew, 1980; Elardo, Bradley, and Caldwell, 1977).