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Quality of Mothers' Engagement with Their Toddlers: The Roles of Childrearing History, Social Support, and Empathy.

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This study examined the relationship between a mother's childrearing history, perceived social support, and maternal empathy and the quality of engagement with her child during play. The study also focused on the roles of social support as a moderating variable and maternal empathy as a mediating variable in the relationship. Participants were 77 mother-infant dyads of predominantly African American and Hispanic origin, all qualifying for federal financial assistance benefits and living in inner-city neighborhoods. Infants were approximately 24 months of age. Mother-infant play using a standard set of age-appropriate toys was videotaped at the mother's residences. Mothers also completed questionnaires regarding perceived social support, perceived relationship with their mother in childhood, and their empathic understanding of others emotional experiences. The major findings of the study indicated that many mothers engaged in play supporting their childs cognitive, social, and emotional development. Mothers demonstrated a modest level of restrictive behaviors, more often restricting their children by using more intrusive control than prohibition. High social support protected against negative effects of childhood rejection on mothers' play. Low social support exacerbated negative effects of childhood rejection on maternal play and affect. Low social support and high acceptance produced the optimal condition for maternal play. When mothers had high support and high rejection, they demonstrated somewhat more positive and negative affect than mothers with high support and high acceptance. Maternal empathy did not mediate the relationship between parental acceptance-rejection and maternal behavior but uniquely predicted maternal behavior. (Definitions of maternal behaviors are appended.) (KB)

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Author:Saba, Jennifer Fetner; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine
Publication:ERIC: Reports
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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