Identifying components of maternal sensitivity to infant distress: The role of maternal emotional competencies

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Esther M. Leerkes, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Objective. Emotional competencies that can facilitate maternal sensitivity to infant distress were examined. These included accurate identification of negative infant emotions, emotional responses to distress, emotion goals, and emotion-related efficacy. Design. Sixty-seven mothers and infants participated. Maternal sensitivity was observed in the laboratory when infants were 6 months. Mothers were interviewed about their emotional and cognitive responses to infant distress when their infants were 2½ years and subsequently completed daily diaries for 1 week to assess maternal sensitivity. Results. Emotional competencies interacted with one another to predict sensitivity to infant and toddler distress. Specifically, emotional competencies were positively related to sensitivity to distress when other competencies were also high, but unrelated or negatively related to sensitivity when other competencies were low. Conclusions. Maternal sensitivity to infant distress is dependent on a variety of skills, and specific combinations of the emotional competencies can either enhance or undermine maternal sensitivity.

Additional Information

Parenting: Science & Practice, 4, 1-23
Language: English
Date: 2004
maternal sensitivity, infant distress, maternal emotional competencies

Email this document to