Association Between Maternal Sensitivity and Externalizing Behavior from Preschool to Preadolescence

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Roger Mills-Koonce, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Using data from the longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (N = 1364), this study examined the association between mothers' sensitivity and children's externalizing behavior from preschool to preadolescence. Externalizing behavior declined on average across this period with a slowing of this decline around middle childhood. Maternal sensitivity remained relatively stable on average, and there was significant variation across mothers. A decrease in maternal sensitivity from ages 3 to 11 was related to an increase in externalizing behavior from ages 4 to 12. A model-based test of the direction of the effect suggested that the association between changes in maternal sensitivity and externalizing behavior from ages 4 to 11 was driven by child effects on mothers and not vice-versa. Between late preschool age and preadolescence, the behavior problems of children appear to strongly influence the sensitive support of mothers. Practical implications were discussed in light of these findings.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Externalizing behavior, Maternal sensitivity, Child effect

Email this document to