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An Exploration of the Domain-Specificity of Maternal Sensitivity among a Diverse Sample in the Infancy Period: Unique Paths to Child Outcomes

Taraban, Lindsay (2022) An Exploration of the Domain-Specificity of Maternal Sensitivity among a Diverse Sample in the Infancy Period: Unique Paths to Child Outcomes. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Decades of research on maternal sensitivity has established associations between higher levels of sensitive caregiving and adaptive early childhood outcomes, such as greater academic achievement and social competence, and lower levels of emotional and behavior problems. The field has tended to conceptualize and measure sensitivity in a generalized way, with the underlying assumption being that general sensitivity predicts to a wide range of child outcomes. However, classic theory and recent research support the idea that mothers’ sensitivity to infant displays of distress (SD) may be especially important for early childhood social-emotional development, while maternal sensitivity in times of calm (sensitivity to non-distress; SND) may have particular importance for young children’s cognitive development. The present study tested this hypothesis a large, low-income, racially and ethnically diverse sample recruited from Pittsburgh, PA and New York City, with measures collected between 6 and 24 months. Additional aims further probed the specificity of SD and SND by testing whether SD and SND had unique maternal predictors and whether associations related to predictors and outcomes of SD and SND were moderated by child negative emotionality. Results suggest that although they share a substantial degree of overlap, maternal SD and SND may have meaningful distinctions and predictive ability for specific early childhood outcomes. Distinguishing maternal SD from SND could be impactful not only for deepening our understanding of early maternal sensitive caregiving, but also for more precisely targeting and intervening with families of young children.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Taraban, Lindsaylet42@pitt.edulet42
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShaw,
Committee MemberCampbell,
Committee MemberBrownell,
Committee MemberSilk,
Committee MemberHipwell,
Date: 12 October 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 May 2022
Approval Date: 12 October 2022
Submission Date: 26 July 2022
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 104
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: maternal sensitivity, domain specificity, social-emotional development, cognitive development, infancy
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 18:55
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2022 18:55


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