Maternal sensitivity and language in early childhood: A test of the transactional model

Patricia Leigh, M. Angela Nievar, Laura Nathans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


This study examined the relation between mothers' sensitive responsiveness to their children and the children's expressive language skills during early childhood. Reciprocal effects were tested with dyads of mothers and their children participating in the National Institute of Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Sensitive maternal interactions positively affected children's later expressive language in the second and third years of life. Although maternal sensitivity predicted later language skills in children, children's language did not affect later maternal sensitivity as indicated in a structural equation model. These results do not support the 1975 transactional model of child development of Sameroff and Chandler. A consistent pattern of sensitivity throughout infancy and early childhood indicates the importance of fostering maternal sensitivity in infancy for prevention or remediation of expressive language problems in young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-299
Number of pages19
JournalPerceptual and motor skills
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems


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