Esther M. Leerkes

My primary research focus centers around parent-child relations in infancy and early childhood. Within this area, I have pursued three primary themes: 1) identifying factors that contribute to sensitive maternal behavior, particularly in response to negative child emotions; 2) examining links between maternal sensitivity and subsequent child outcomes; 3) examining the impact of parenting a child with unique temperamental characteristics on adult development, well-being, and relationships during the transition to parenthood. A secondary research interest of mine involves methodological issues in the measurement of infant temperament, emotion regulation, and maternal sensitivity.

There are 77 included publications by Esther M. Leerkes :

TitleDateViewsBrief Description
Adult Attachment States of Mind: Measurement Invariance Across Ethnicity and Associations With Maternal Sensitivity 2013 565 This study examined the developmental significance of mothers' adult attachment representations assessed prenatally with the Adult Attachment Interview in relation to observed maternal sensitivity at 6 months postpartum in an ethnically diverse sampl...
African American and European American Mothers' Beliefs About Negative Emotions and Emotion Socialization Practices 2012 1975 Objective . The authors examined mothers’ beliefs about their children's negative emotions and their emotion socialization practices. Design . A total of 65 African American and 137 European American mothers of 5-year-old children reported their beli...
African American parents’ racial and emotion socialization profiles and young adults’ emotional adaptation 2015 20 The current study aimed to identify parents’ profiles of racial and emotion socialization practices, to determine if these profiles vary as a function of family income and young adult child gender, and to examine their links with young adults’ emotio...
Antecedents of maternal sensitivity during distressing tasks: Integrating attachment, social information processing, and psychobiological perspectives 2015 8 Predictors of maternal sensitivity to infant distress were examined among 259 primiparous mothers. The Adult Attachment Interview, self-reports of personality and emotional functioning, and measures of physiological, emotional, and cognitive response...
Antecedents of mothers' emotional and cognitive responses to infant distress: The role of family, mother, and infant characteristics 2006 38 The antecedents of mothers' emotional and cognitive responses to infant distress were examined. Participants were 67 mothers and their infants. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing their experiences in the family of origin and current marital r...
Attachment linked predictors of women’s emotional and cognitive responses to infant distress 2006 25 The purpose of this study was to examine associations among women's emotional and cognitive responses to infant fear and anger and to identify attachment linked predictors of these responses. Four hundred and forty Caucasian and African American unde...
Attachment states of mind among internationally adoptive and foster parents 2017 15 The first aim of the current study was to examine the latent structure of attachment states of mind as assessed by the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) among three groups of parents of children at risk for insecure attachments: parents who adopted in...
Attachment to Parents, Social Anxiety, and Close Relationships of Female Students over the Transition to College 2010 2826 The current study examined the process by which attachment to parents influences satisfaction with and ease in forming friendships at college. One hundred seventy-two female college freshmen completed a measure of parental attachment security the sum...
Close Relationships Predict Curvilinear Trajectories of Maternal Depressive Symptoms over the Transition to Parenthood 2014 585 Trajectories of change in maternal depressive symptoms were examined in a sample of 98 mothers across the transition to parenthood. Latent class growth modeling revealed two unique trajectories: one characterized by consistently low depressive sympto...
Cognitive and emotional processes as predictors of a successful transition into school 2017 9 Research Findings: The aim of this research was to delineate developmental processes that contribute to early school success. To achieve this aim, we examined emotion regulation, executive functioning, emotion knowledge, and metacognition at ages 3 a...
Development and Assessment of Short and Very Short Forms of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire–Revised 2014 4888 Using data from parents of 761 infants from 6 independent samples, short (91 items, 14 scales) and very short (37 items, 3 broad scales) forms of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire–Revised (IBQ–R), a well-established caregiver report measure of temper...
The development of maternal self-efficacy and its influence on maternal behavior 2002 19 A developmental model of the origins of maternal self-efficacy and its impact on maternal sensitivity was tested. Participants were 92 primiparous mothers and their 6-month-old infants. Mothers completed questionnaires about remembered care from thei...
The development of parenting efficacy among new mothers and fathers 2007 20 Predictors of prenatal and postnatal parenting efficacy were examined in a sample of 115 primiparous mothers and 73 fathers in an effort to examine the association between preexisting parental characteristics and prenatal efficacy and the association...
Developmental Dynamics of Emotion and Cognition Processes in Preschoolers 2012 1213 Dynamic relations during the preschool years across processes of control and understanding in the domains of emotion and cognition were examined. Participants were 263 children (42% non-White) and their mothers who were seen first when the children w...
Developmental History of Care and Control, Depression and Anger: Correlates of Maternal Sensitivity in Toddlerhood 2009 343 This study examined maternal sensitivity in response to toddler distress in relation to mothers' childhood care and control experiences with parents, maternal depression, and maternal anger. Fifty-two mothers and infants participated. Mothers reporte...
Differential Effects of Maternal Sensitivity to Infant Distress and Nondistress on Social-Emotional Functioning 2009 1329 Associations between maternal sensitivity to infant distress and nondistress and infant social-emotional adjustment were examined in a subset of dyads from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (N = 376). Mothers reported on infant temperament at 1 and...
Differentiating Maternal Sensitivity to Infant Distress and Non-Distress 2012 956 Drawing from a domain specificity perspective, we assert that maternal sensitivity to infant distress cues is distinct from maternal sensitivity to non-distress cues. We review evidence from prior research demonstrating that the two constructs have m...
Differentiating Processes of Control and Understanding in the Early Development of Emotion and Cognition 2012 836 In this study, we examined the hypothesis that preschoolers' performance on emotion and cognitive tasks is organized into discrete processes of control and understanding within the domains of emotion and cognition. Additionally, we examined the relat...
Do hours spent watching television at age 3 and 4 predict vocabulary and executive functioning at age 5? 2015 6 We examined the impact of television viewing at ages 3 and 4 on vocabulary and at age 5 on executive functioning in the context of home learning environment and parental scaffolding. Children (N = 263) were seen in the lab when they were 3 years old ...
Early physiological regulation predicts the trajectory of externalizing behaviors across the preschool period 2014 12 Early assessments of children's physiological functioning are shown to predict subsequentdevelopmental outcomes. However, individual changes that occur in the development ofphysiological systems may be associated with the pattern of change in behavio...
Emotion and cognition processes in preschool children 2008 8 The core processes of emotion understanding, emotion control, cognitive understanding, andcognitive control and their association with early indicators of social and academic success wereexamined in a sample of 141 3-year-old children. Confirmatory f...
Establishing the measurement invariance of the Very Short Form of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire Revised for mothers who vary on race and poverty status 2016 23 We examined the measurement invariance of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire Revised–VeryShort Form (IBQR–VSF; Putnam, Helbig, Gartstein, Rothbart, & Leerkes, 2014) in a sample of470 racially (185 White, 285 African American) and socioeconomically div...
Ethnic Differences in Women's Emotional Reactions to Parental Nonsupportive Emotion Socialization 2014 382 Recent evidence suggests that the association between parents’ use of nonsupportive emotion socialization practices and their children's subsequent negative emotional outcomes varies based on ethnicity. The goal of this study is to test the propositi...
European-American and African-American Mothers' Emotion Socialization Practices Relate Differently to Their Children's Academic and Social-emotional Competence 2012 10 The current study examines whether the relation between mothers' responses to their children's negative emotions and teachers' reports of children's academic performance and social-emotional competence are similar or different for European-American a...
Further evidence of the limited role of candidate genes in relation to infant–mother attachment outcomes 2016 10 In this paper, we examine the associations between specific candidate genes (DRD2, DRD4, COMT, biallelic and tri-allelic 5HTTLPR, and OXTR) and infant attachment outcomes as main effects and in conjunction with maternal sensitivity. The sample includ...
Gender and ethnic differences in young adults’ emotional reactions to parental punitive and minimizing emotion socialization practices 2017 19 This study examined differences in how African American and European American participants (N = 553) recalled feeling when their parents engaged in punitive and minimizing emotion socialization practices during childhood. We conducted this study to r...
Identifying components of maternal sensitivity to infant distress: The role of maternal emotional competencies 2004 19 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 effic...
Identifying mother-child interaction styles using a person-centered approach 2014 20 Parent–child conflict in the context of a supportive relationship has been discussed as a potentially constructive interaction pattern; the current study is the first to test this using a holistic analytic approach. Interaction styles, defined as mot...
The impact of maternal characteristics and sensitivity on the concordance between maternal reports and laboratory observations of infant negative emotionality 2003 17 The moderating role of maternal characteristics and maternal sensitivity on the concordance between maternal reports and laboratory observations of negative emotionality was examined. Participants were 90 primiparous mothers and their infants. Mother...
Infant and maternal behavior moderate reactivity to novelty to predict anxious behavior at 2.5 years 2006 20 The degree to which infant regulatory behaviors, together with infant reactivity to novelty, predicted anxious behavior at 2.5 years, and the moderating effect of maternal behavior were tested. Sixty-four low-risk mothers and infants participated. Mo...
Infant and maternal behaviors regulate infant reactivity to novelty at 6 months 2004 20 Three issues were investigated: (a) the regulatory effects of presumed infant and maternal regulation behaviors on infant distress to novelty at 6 months, (b) stability of infant regulatory effects across contexts that vary in maternal involvement, a...
The Infant Crying Questionnaire: Initial factor structure and validation 2012 2055 The current project reports on an initial investigation into the factor structure of the Infant Crying Questionnaire (ICQ), a measure designed to assess parental beliefs about infant crying, in a sample of 259 primiparous mothers. Exploratory factor ...
Infant Distress and Regulatory Behaviors Vary as a Function of Attachment Security Regardless of Emotion Context and Maternal Involvement 2012 694 Differences in infant distress and regulatory behaviors based on the quality of attachment to mother, emotion context (frustration versus fear), and whether or not mothers were actively involved in the emotion-eliciting tasks were examined in a sampl...
Infant negative affect and maternal interactive behavior during the still-face procedure: the moderating role of adult attachment states of mind 2014 1042 The current study examined associations between attachment state of mind measured prenatally (N = 259) and maternal behavior in the reunion episode of the still-face procedure when infants were six months of age both as a main effect and in conjuncti...
Infant temperament moderates associations between childcare type and quantity and externalizing and internalizing behaviors at 2 ½ years 2005 24 This study tested interactive effects of quantity and type (center-based versus other) of non-parental care, and infant temperament, on children's externalizing and internalizing behaviors at 2 ½, controlling for childcare quality. Sixty-four mothers...
Innovative methods in the science of parent-child relations 2015 16 The study of parent-child relations is an active area of inquiry given that it plays a role in both child and adult (parent) development and has implications for the broader family system and society as a whole (Bornstein, 2005; Collins, Maccoby, Ste...
An Integrative Conceptual Model of Parental Racial/Ethnic and Emotion Socialization and Links to Children's Social-Emotional Development Among African American Families 2017 8 Researchers have called for increased evaluation of the processes that contribute to African American children's successful emotional development in the face of discrimination. Parents’ racial/ethnic and emotion socialization have been linked to chil...
Interparental conflict and infants’ behavior problems: The mediating role of maternal sensitivity 2017 22 Although the negative effect of interparental conflict on child behavior problems has been well established, few studies have examined this association during infancy. This study examined the associations between mother-reported interparental conflic...
Latent profile and cluster analysis of infant temperament: Comparisons across person-centered approaches 2017 6 There is renewed interest in person-centered approaches to understanding the structure of temperament. However, questions concerning temperament types are not frequently framed in a developmental context, especially during infancy. In addition, the m...
Links between Family Social Status and Preschoolers' Persistence: The Role of Maternal Values and Quality of Parenting 2012 1120 Children who develop persistence in the preschool years are likely to function more effectively during the transition into school. In this study of 231 3-year-old children and their mothers, we examined the relations among family social status, mater...
Links between Mothers’ and Fathers’ Perceptions of Infant Temperament and Coparenting 2010 1031 This study examined the contributions of infant temperament, marital functioning, and the division of parenting on the quality of the coparenting relationship for couples parenting 6-month-old infants. Marital functioning was assessed prenatally. Whe...
Links Between Mothers’ Coping Styles, Toddler Reactivity, and Sensitivity to Toddler's Negative Emotions 2012 611 The extent to which engaged maternal coping styles moderate the association between toddler's temperamental reactivity and mothers’ sensitivity to children's negative emotions was examined in 89 mother–child dyads. Primiparous mothers completed a mea...
Links Between Remembered Childhood Emotion Socialization and Adult Adjustment Similarities and Differences Between European American and African American Women 2013 1981 The purpose of this article was to examine whether recollections of mothers’ emotion socialization practices during childhood are linked to adult emotional well-being as indexed by depression, trait anger, and cardiac vagal tone, and whether these ef...
A longitudinal assessment of the relation between executive function and theory of mind at 3, 4, and 5 years 2015 1550 This longitudinal study contributes to the growing literature on the predictive nature of the relation between executive function (EF) and theory of mind (ToM). A latent variable model was fit to the data acquired from 226 socioeconomically and racia...
Longitudinal Associations Between Children's Understanding of Emotions and Theory of Mind 2011 1157 Theory of mind competence and knowledge of emotions were studied longitudinally in a sample of preschoolers aged 3 (n=263) and 4 (n=244) years. Children were assessed using standard measures of theory of mind and emotion knowledge. Three competing hy...
Marital Aggression Predicts Infant Orienting Toward Mother at Six Months 2011 633 Links between marital aggression and infant orienting toward mother in fearful and frustrating contexts were examined in 92 mother–infant dyads when infants were six months. Results demonstrated that marital aggression was linked with less orienting ...
Maternal Expressive Style and Children's Emotional Development 2012 1303 Maternal expressive styles, based on a combination of positive and negative expressive patterns, were identified at two points in time and related to multiple aspects of preschool children's emotional development. Mother–child pairs from 260 families...
The Maternal (Non) Responsiveness Questionnaire: Initial Factor Structure and Validation 2017 29 The purpose of this paper was to examine the reliability, stability, and convergent and predictive validity of the newly developed Maternal Responsiveness Questionnaire (MRQ). Participants were 224 first-time mothers. Mothers completed the MRQ when t...
Maternal physiological dysregulation while parenting poses risk for infant attachment disorganization and behavior problems 2017 10 The extent to which indices of maternal physiological arousal (skin conductance augmentation) and regulation (vagal withdrawal) while parenting predict infant attachment disorganization and behavior problems directly or indirectly via maternal sensit...
Maternal punitive reactions to children’s negative emotions and young adult anger: The effect of gender and emotional closeness 2015 9 The current study tested whether young adult's recollected reports of their mother's punitive reactions to their negative emotions in childhood predicted anger expression in young adulthood and whether emotional closeness weakens this association. Fu...
Maternal sensitivity during distressing tasks: A unique predictor of attachment security 2011 818 The extent to which maternal sensitivity during a non-arousing free play task and during distressing tasks at 6 months predicted infant–mother attachment security was examined. When considered simultaneously, only maternal sensitivity during distress...
Measuring negative emotionality using the Infant Behavior Questionnaire-Revised Very Short Form in a low income, diverse sample 2016 8 Infant temperament, particularly negative emotionality, is a frequently studied construct in infancy given its links with later child outcomes and family functioning. For example, heightened negative emotionality in infancy is associated with later p...
Moderate Vagal Withdrawal in 3.5-Year-Old Children is Associated with Optimal Performance on Executive Function Tasks 2010 941 Vagal tone (measured via respiratory sinus arrhythmia, RSA) and vagal withdrawal (measured by decreases in RSA) have been identified as physiological measures of self-regulation, but little is known how they may relate to the regulation of cognitive ...
Mothers' Emotional Reactions to Crying Pose Risk for Subsequent Attachment Insecurity 2011 679 Links between maternal emotional reactions to crying (anger and anxiety) and infant attachment security were examined in 119 mother-infant dyads. Mothers rated the intensity of their emotional responses to videotapes of crying infants prenatally. Mat...
Mothers' responses to children's negative emotions and child emotion regulation: The moderating role of vagal suppression 2011 9 The current study examined the moderating effect of children's cardiac vagal suppression on the association between maternal socialization of negative emotions (supportive and nonsupportive responses) and children's emotion regulation behaviors. One ...
Multiple domains of new mothers’ adaptation: Interrelations and roots in childhood maternal nonsupportive emotion socialization 2018 28 This study focused on the interrelations among different domains of maternal adaptation (i.e., emotion-regulation difficulties, depressive symptoms, and couple-relationship satisfaction) over the transition to parenthood and also their associations w...
Nonstandard maternal work schedules and infant mental health in impoverished families: A brief report 2016 3 Guided by a bioecological model, this study examines variability in infant mental health by maternal work schedule in the context of poverty. More time in irregular work schedules, but not fixed night/evening schedules, predicts maternal depression a...
Nonstandard Maternal Work Schedules During Infancy: Implications for Children's Early Behavior Problems 2009 621 This paper examines the associations between maternal nonstandard work schedules during infancy and children's early behavior problems, and the extent to which infant temperament may moderate these associations. Hypothesized associations were tested ...
Nonstandard Work Schedules and Developmentally Generative Parenting Practices: An Application of Propensity Score Techniques 2011 768 Data from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care (Phase I) and propensity score techniques were used to determine whether working full time in a nonstandard schedule job during the child's first year p...
Origins of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Beliefs about Infant Crying 2010 844 Origins of mothers’ and fathers’ beliefs about infant crying were examined in 87 couples. Parents completed measures of emotion minimization in the family of origin, depressive symptoms, empathy, trait anger, and coping styles prenatally. At 6 months...
Parental acceptance, postpartum depression, and maternal sensitivity: Mediating and moderating processes 2003 13 Mothers (n=92), fathers (n=84), and their infants (60% male) participated in a longitudinal study of postpartum depression and maternal sensitivity. Mothers completed questionnaire measures of remembered parental acceptance, depressive symptoms, and ...
Pathways by which mothers’ physiological arousal and regulation while caregiving predict sensitivity to infant distress 2016 6 Pathways by which maternal physiological arousal (skin conductance level [SCL]) and regulation (respiratory sinus arrhythmia [RSA] withdrawal) while parenting are linked with concurrent and subsequent maternal sensitivity were examined. Mothers’ (N =...
Pathways from marital aggression to infant emotion regulation: The development of withdrawal in infancy 2007 14 Associations between marital conflict and infant emotion regulation exist, but explanatory pathways have not been explored. For older children, parental behavior partially mediates this association through a “spillover” process. We test: associations...
Pathways from maternal effortful control to child self regulation: The role of maternal emotional support 2017 8 This study examined the direct and indirect pathways from maternal effortful control to 2 aspects of children’s self-regulation—executive functioning and behavioral regulation—via maternal emotional support. Two hundred seventy-eight children and the...
Predicting aggressive behavior in the third year from infant reactivity and regulation as moderated by maternal behavior 2008 16 The degree to which infant attention behaviors, together with infant reactivity to frustrating events, predict aggressive behavior at 2.5 years, and the moderating effect of maternal behavior were tested with 64 low-risk mothers and infants. Mothers ...
Predictors of Maternal Sensitivity to Infant Distress 2010 1039 Objective- The present study was designed to examine the extent to which mothers’ emotional (i.e., empathy, negative emotions) and cognitive (i.e., accurate detection of distress, goals about infant crying, and emotion efficacy) responses to infant d...
Preschool-aged children's understanding of gratitude: Relations with emotion and mental state knowledge 2012 2192 Developmental precursors to children's early understanding of gratitude were examined. A diverse group of 263 children was tested for emotion and mental state knowledge at ages 3 and 4, and their understanding of gratitude was measured at age 5. Chil...
Preschoolers’ distress and regulatory behaviors vary as a function of infant–mother attachment security 2016 13 Children (N = 98) with higher attachment security scores, and lower resistance and avoidance scores during the Strange Situation at 16 months demonstrated somewhat more adaptive observed and mother-reported emotion regulation as preschoolers independ...
Psychosocial predictors of primiparous breastfeeding initiation and duration 2014 17 Background: Many US women fall short of meeting the recommendations on breastfeeding.Whereas prenatal demographic factors have been well researched in relation to breastfeeding,psychosocial maternal characteristics are less understood but could be im...
The relation between maternal emotional support and child physiological regulation across the preschool years 2012 7 Trajectories of baseline RSA (respiratory sinus arrhythmia), an index of reactivity, and vagal withdrawal, an index of regulation, across the preschool period were examined. In addition, maternal emotional support was investigated as a potential time...
The relation of maternal emotional and cognitive support during problem solving to pre-academic skills in preschoolers 2012 783 Using a sample of 263 mother–child dyads, we examined the extent to which maternal emotional and cognitive support during a joint problem-solving task when children were 3-years-old predicted children's academic skills 1 year later independent of eac...
The Reliability and Validity of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire-Revised 2008 1571 The reliability and validity of the Infant Behavior Questionnaire-Revised was examined in a sample of 6-month-old infants and their parents. One hundred and fifteen mothers and 79 fathers completed the IBQ-R and a measure of depression and 98 infants...
Remembered Parental Rejection and Postpartum Declines in Marital Satisfaction: Moderated Dyadic Links 2013 519 Utilizing a sample of 80 married couples, the current study employed a dyadic approach to examine links between remembered parental rejection during childhood and change in marital satisfaction across the transition to parenthood. Partner remembered ...
The Role of Persistence at Preschool Age in Academic Skills at Kindergarten 2013 2979 The current study examined the role of preschoolers’ motivation, operationalized as persistence, in the formation of language and math skills at kindergarten. The participants were 263 children from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Demo...
The role of sociodemographic risk and maternal behavior in the prediction of infant attachment disorganization 2016 5 Predictors of infant attachment disorganization were examined among 203 primiparous mothers (52% European American, 48% African American) and their infants (104 female). The Strange Situation Procedure was administered at one year. Global maternal in...
Shyness and Vocabulary: the Roles of Executive Functioning and Home Environmental Stimulation 2011 1278 Although shyness has often been found to be negatively related to vocabulary, few studies have examined the processes that produce or modify this relation. The present study examined executive functioning skills and home environmental stimulation as ...
Variation in mothers’ arginine vasopressin receptor 1a and dopamine receptor D4 predicts maternal sensitivity via social cognition 2017 6 We examined the extent to which the arginine vasopressin receptor 1a (AVPR1a) and dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) were related to sensitive maternal behavior directly or indirectly via maternal social cognition. Participants were 207 (105 European-Americ...