Relation of Maternal Cognitive Stimulation, Emotional Support, and Intrusive Behavior during Head Start to Children’s Kindergarten Cognitive Abilities


  • Laura Hubbs-Tait,

  • Anne McDonald Culp,

  • Rex E. Culp,

  • Carrie E. Miller


The current study examined how parental cognitive stimulation, emotional support, and intrusiveness measured during children’s prekindergarten year were related to children’s verbal and nonverbal abilities 1 year later. Participants were 110 Head Start children and their caregivers from primarily rural and low-income backgrounds. Analysis of children’s scores on the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities confirmed the predictive utility of cognitive stimulation, emotional support, and intrusive behavior for perceptual scores (20% of the unique variance) as well as the predictive utility of emotional support and intrusive behavior for verbal scores (15% of the unique variance). Parental emotional support during guidance of problem solving (positive feedback) explained statistically significant unique variance in children’s perceptual scores beyond other measures of emotional support. Cognitive stimulation moderated the relation between positive feedback and perceptual scores. Although other syntactic forms of maternal utterances such as commands did not explain statistically significant unique variance in children’s scores beyond emotional support and intrusive behavior, mothers’ questions did. Specific policy implications of the effects are discussed.