Date of Award:

8-2018

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Lori A. Roggman

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Ann M. Berghout Austin

Third Advisor:

Mark S. Innocenti

Abstract

Children from different socioeconomic backgrounds often have different long-term outcomes in terms of school, language, and emotional wellbeing. At this time, no reasons for these differences have been agreed upon by experts across disciplines. Parents with different personal characteristics and life situations use different types and amounts of interactions with their infants. The social interactions infants experience during their first year of life provide the start of their developmental path in the areas of language and executive control while also guiding their expectations for interactions with people around them.

This study used previously unpublished data from a sample of 79 young infants, age 3 to 9 months, and their mothers. There was a set of five research questions. The first question guided exploration of how socioeconomic status (SES; represented by maternal education and family income) was associated with the parenting behaviors mothers used with their infants. The second question guided exploration of how mothers’ psychosocial resources (represented by child development knowledge and parenting stress) were associated with the parenting behaviors mothers used with their infants. The third question addressed whether associations between maternal education and parenting behavior were directly connected or if the amount of child development knowledge influenced the association. The fourth question addressed whether associations between family income and parenting behavior were directly connected or if the amount of mothers’ parenting stress influenced the association. The final question addressed whether associations between mothers’ psychosocial parenting resources and infant development were directly connected or if the associations were instead connected by mothers’ psychosocial resources.

During a single home visit with each mother and her young infant, the research visitor assessed infant development, video recorded the mother and infant playing during a free play session, and asked mothers to fill out questionnaires. Project questionnaires addressed mothers’ education and family income as well as their levels of child development knowledge and parenting stress. None of the findings directly related to the five hypotheses were statistically significant. However, follow-up analyses provided information about potential future directions for investigating the links between SES, parenting interactions, and infant competencies using smaller categories of education and income levels. These findings from follow-up questions may guide potential future directions for identifying SES and psychosocial influences on early parenting interaction behaviors and young infants’ early development.

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