Maternal Sensitivity: Long Term Benefits

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“This suggests that investments in early parent-child relationships may result in long-term returns that accumulate across individuals’ lives.”
-Dr. Lee Raby-

Results from a recent study (published in the journal of Child Development), highlight the importance of early caregiving experiences  on academic achievement and social relationships. While past research has documented the link between early caregiving experiences (specifically maternal sensitivity) and children’s cognitive/social development, this new study not only replicates this important finding but also extends it by demonstrating the long-lasting benefits of early maternal sensitivity, especially for school success or academic achievement.

Researchers followed over 200 individuals from birth to age 32 and observed videotaped interactions between mother and child at ages 3, 6, 24 and 42 months. At each time point, mothers were instructed to act ‘naturally’ and were given a combination of tasks (feeding, play and problem-solving/teaching tasks). Observers then rated maternal sensitivity based on the interactions between mother-child. As children progressed through formal schooling, teacher ratings and data from standardized tests of academic achievement were collected.

Results are consistent with previous findings demonstrating that children who experienced more sensitive caregiving (as rated by the videotaped interactions) during the first three years of life showed long-standing benefits in academic and social functioning. However, the links between early maternal sensitivity and academic achievement were greater.

If you are interested in more details, a summary of the research article can be found in this SRCD (Society for Research in Child Development) Press Release: Early caregiving experiences have long-term effects on social relationships, achievement.

Raby, K. L., Roisman, G. I., Fraley, R. C. and Simpson, J. A. (2014), The Enduring Predictive Significance of Early Maternal Sensitivity: Social and Academic Competence Through Age 32 Years. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12325

 

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