All by Myself? Independence and Coordination During Distress Episodes from 14 to 24 Months Among Latino Children


  • Portions of this work were completed when Holli A. Tonyan was at the Department of Education, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

  • The findings reported here are based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to the University of California, Los Angeles. The research is part of the independent research the University of California, Los Angeles conducted with the Children First Early Head Start, which is one of the 17 programs participating in the national Early Head Start study. The authors are members of the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The Consortium consists of representatives from 17 programs participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and the ACF. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Portions of this research were supported by a predoctoral fellowship from the Spencer Foundation.

Correspondence to: Holli A. Tonyan, Department of Psychology, 18111 Nordhoff Street, California State University, Northridge, CA 91330-8255, USA. E-mail:


Growing research suggests that socialization toward independence with a focus on ‘separate individuality’ may be a culture specific rather than universal socialization goal. Among Latino families, children of mothers high in formal schooling have shown more independent and less coordinated patterns of interaction than children of mothers low in formal schooling. This longitudinal research explored the balance between independence and coordination during mother–child interaction around distress by examining age-related changes and within-group variation among Latino children. Fifty Latino dyads were videotaped during unstructured interactions in their homes at 14 and 24 months of age. Episodes of distress were identified and then classified according to individual contributions and coordination (e.g. [child] independent, mother-led, coordinated). Coordinated and independent resolutions were the most frequent type at both ages. To examine the balance between these for each child, a proportion of episodes resolved in each type was calculated. Children in both groups (high maternal schooling, low maternal schooling) increased in coordination, but only children with higher maternal schooling also increased in independent resolutions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.