Original Article

Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 751-765

First online:

Maternal Sensitivity and Internalizing Problems: Evidence from Two Longitudinal Studies in Early Childhood

  • Rianne KokAffiliated withCentre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden UniversityThe Generation R Study Group, Erasmus University Medical CenterDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus University Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital
  • , Mariëlle LintingAffiliated withCentre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University
  • , Marian J. Bakermans-KranenburgAffiliated withCentre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University Email author 
  • , Marinus H. van IJzendoornAffiliated withCentre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden UniversitySchool of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, Erasmus University
  • , Vincent W. V. JaddoeAffiliated withThe Generation R Study Group, Erasmus University Medical CenterDepartment of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical CenterDepartment of Pediatrics, Erasmus University Medical Center
  • , Albert HofmanAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center
  • , Frank C. VerhulstAffiliated withDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus University Medical Center-Sophia Children’s Hospital
  • , Henning TiemeierAffiliated withDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus University Medical Center-Sophia Children’s HospitalDepartment of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical CenterDepartment of Psychiatry, Erasmus University Medical Center

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Abstract

The goal of this study is to clarify the relation between maternal sensitivity and internalizing problems during the preschool period. For this purpose, a longitudinal, bidirectional model was tested in two large prospective, population-based cohorts, the Generation R Study and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD), including over 1,800 mother–child dyads in total. Maternal sensitivity was repeatedly observed in mother–child interaction tasks and information on child internalizing problems was obtained from maternal reports. Modest but consistent associations between maternal sensitivity and internalizing problems were found in both cohorts, confirming the importance of sensitive parenting for positive development in the preschool years. Pathways from maternal sensitivity to child internalizing problems were consistently observed but child-to-mother pathways were only found in the NICHD SECCYD sample.

Keywords

Maternal sensitivity Internalizing problems Longitudinal Bidirectional