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The purpose of this study was to explore the possible association between maternal sensitivity and distal factors such as neighborhood quality.

480 mother-child dyads were videotaped during a naturalistic interaction. Maternal sensitivity was assessed from video-tapes using the Maternal Behavior Q-sort (MBQS; Pederson & Moran, 1995).

Results of a hierarchical regression showed that maternal sensitivity was associated with: child characteristics (e.g. infant weight), maternal characteristics (e.g. age and depression) and family attributes (e.g. household income).

Interviewers’ ratings of neighborhood challenge and mothers’ report of neighborhood quality were found to significantly relate to maternal sensitivity and explained additional variance.

Results indicate that mothers’ ability to parent sensitively is hindered in contexts where the neighborhood challenges are great. These findings have important implications for policy interventions at the neighborhood level to promote maternal sensitivity.


Presented at Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, Colorado.

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