, Volume 10, Issue 7-8, pp 639-649

Biological and social determinants of responsiveness to infants in 10-to-15-year-old girls

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Subjects filled out questionnaires and were individually observed interacting with an 8-to-12-month-old infant in a waiting room. Hidden observers recorded the frequency of ignoring, responsiveness to infant bids, and of social bids to the infant. Analyses revealed that older girls ignored more, made fewer bids, and responded less than younger girls did. However, chronological age was highly correlated with measures of biological and social maturity. Multiple regression analyses were used to determine which of these factors best predicted the developmental decline in baby responsiveness. Multiple regressions showed that social maturity was the best predictor of the number of bids to the infant, followed by the development of secondary sex characteristics and menarcheal status (R=.44). Social maturity, babysitting experience, and menarcheal status were the significant predictors of ignoring (R=.48), while menarcheal status, development of secondary sex characteristics, and babysitting experience predicted responsiveness (R=.49). Possible reasons for the decreased interest in infants are discussed, as are the implications for research using baby responsiveness as a measure of sex-role-related changes in adolescence.

This research was supported by grants from the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the Humanistisk-Samhällsvetenskapliga Forskiningsradet of Sweden to Ann M. Frodi. The authors are grateful to Sharon Bienstock for her assistance.