Prediction of toddlers' expressive language from maternal sensitivity and toddlers' anger expressions: A developmental perspective

Sara S. Nozadi, Tracy Spinrad, Nancy Eisenberg, Rebecca Bolnick, Natalie D. Eggum-Wilkens, Cynthia L. Smith, Bridget Gaertner, Anne Kupfer, Julie Sallquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Despite evidence for the importance of individual differences in expressive language during toddlerhood in predicting later literacy skills, few researchers have examined individual and contextual factors related to language abilities across the toddler years. Furthermore, a gap remains in the literature about the extent to which the relations of negative emotions and parenting to language skills may differ for girls and boys. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to investigate the associations among maternal sensitivity, children's observed anger reactivity, and expressive language when children were 18 (T1; n= 247) and 30 (T2; n= 216) months. At each age, mothers reported on their toddlers' expressive language, and mothers' sensitive parenting behavior was observed during an unstructured free-play task. Toddlers' anger expressions were observed during an emotion-eliciting task. Using path modeling, results showed few relations at T1. At T2, maternal sensitivity was negatively related to anger, and in turn, anger was associated with lower language skills. However, moderation analyses showed that these findings were significant for boys but not for girls. In addition, T1 maternal sensitivity and anger positively predicted expressive language longitudinally for both sexes. Findings suggest that the relations between maternal sensitivity, anger reactivity and expressive language may vary depending on the child's developmental stage and sex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-661
Number of pages12
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Anger
  • Child sex
  • Expressive language
  • Maternal sensitivity
  • Toddlers' negative emotions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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