Early child care and mother-child interaction from 36 months through first grade

Virginia Allhusen, Jay Belsky, Cathryn Booth, Robert Bradley, Celia A. Brownell, Margaret Burchinal, Susan B. Campbell, Alison Clarke-Stewart, Martha Cox, Sarah L. Friedman, Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Aletha Huston, Elizabeth Jaeger, Jean Kelly, Bonnie Knoke, Nancy Marshall, Kathleen McCartney, Marion O'Brien, Margaret Tresch Owen, Deborah PhillipsRobert Pianta, Wendy Wagner Robeson, Susan Spieker, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Marsha Weinraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Relations were examined between early non-maternal child care experience in the child's first 3 years and mother-child interaction when children were 3, 4.5, and in first grade. Longitudinal analyses investigated relations between cumulative child care experiences across the first 3 years and mother-child interaction from age 3 through first grade to test whether results pertaining to 4.5-year-olds and first graders deviated from those found across the first 36 months in this sample of 1,180 from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. Previously found relations in the first 3 years were restricted to certain subsamples at these later ages: More non-maternal child care experience across the first 3 years was associated with less maternal sensitivity and less positive engagement of mother for White children but greater maternal sensitivity and child positive engagement for non-White children through first grade. Positive associations of mother-child interaction with hours of child care were similar for both African-American and Hispanic children. Negative associations between hours of care and sensitivity diminished over time for all children. Higher quality early child care experience was related to greater maternal sensitivity through first grade primarily when children had experienced relatively few hours of care. Early experience with higher quality child care benefited children's positive engagement with mother through first grade when their mothers were depressed. Results were similar whether effects were examined for non-maternal care or for non-parental care in which father care was excluded from considerations of child care experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-370
Number of pages26
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Child care
  • Mother-child interaction
  • Mother-child relationship
  • NICHD Study of Early Child Care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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