Psychology Publications


Adolescent Motherhood, Maternal Sensitivity, and Early Infant Development

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



It is now well established that children of adolescent mothers are at risk for a number of developmental difficulties. The purpose of this review is to examine the relation between the developmental ecologies of the infants of adolescent mothers and infant attachment, language, cognitive and emotional development and behavior problems and the possible mediating role for maternal interactive sensitivity. Studies reveal that while mediation can be readily observed in the context of attachment and suspected in the areas of language, cognitive and emotional development, it is not apparent in two studies that have explicitly tested it in the context of the development of behavior problems. Furthermore, the studies that might be best placed to address issues of mediation, those involving intervention, demonstrate that intervention is effective and that it changes both maternal behavior and outcome; and, it is implied that changes in outcome are the result of changes in maternal behavior. We suggest that the theoretical and practical implications of mediation by maternal sensitivity make it highly recommended that researchers who use both correlational and experimental designs actively question their data for its presence.


Published as a book chapter in: Maternal Sensitivity: A Scientific Foundation for Practice. Deborah Winders Davis and M. Cynthia Logsdon. (Eds.).
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