Patterns of Maternal Directiveness by Ethnicity Among Early Head Start Research Participants

Jean M. Ispa, Annamaria Csizmadia, Duane Rudy, Mark A. Fine, Jennifer L. Krull, Robert Bradley, Natasha Cabrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objective. Using the Early Head Start dataset, this study examined change over time in European American, African American, and Mexican American mothers' directiveness during play with their young children and associations between these patterns and their children's engagement with and negativity toward them. The influences of maternal positive and negative regard were also investigated. Design. Mother-child dyads (938 European American, 849 African American, and 465 Mexican American) participated in semistructured play sessions when children were 1, 2, 3, and 5 years old. Videotapes were coded for mothers' directiveness, positive regard, and negative regard and for children's engagement with and negativity toward their mothers. Results. All three groups declined in directiveness over time, but varied in initial levels and in rates and patterns of decline. European American mothers had the lowest directiveness ratings and African American mothers had the highest; Mexican American mothers showed the steepest declines after the first observation. Directiveness had generally negative implications for children's behavior toward their mothers, although Mexican American children were least affected. In all three groups, maternal positive regard weakened, while maternal negative regard strengthened, inverse relations between directiveness and child engagement. Conclusions. Although there are ethnic differences in levels of directiveness during play with 1- to 5-year-olds, there are also across-group commonalities in the negative implications of high directiveness, especially in the contexts of low positive and high negative maternal regard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-75
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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