Preterm Children at Early Adolescence and Continuity and Discontinuity in Maternal Responsiveness from Infancy


  • This work was supported by a contract from NICHD (1-HD-3–2776), a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation (B771121, G801203), and grants from NICHD (HD18621) and NIMH (36902). The authors wish to thank Per Gjerde for his assistance in the use of the Family Interaction Q-Sort and Michael Espinosa for his valuable assistance in data analysis. We also thank the families who made this longitudinal follow-up study possible through their continued cooperation.

Requests for reprints may be addressed to Leila Beckwith, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, 300 Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90024–7033.


Patterns in mother-child interaction from infancy to age 12 were investigated in a prospective, longitudinal study of 44 English-speaking mothers and their preterm children. Maternal responsiveness was assessed by home observations during infancy and the Family Interaction Q-Sort at age 12, derived from 2 structured laboratory situations requiring cooperation of mother and child. A cluster of maternal behaviors of critical control toward the toddler was assessed at age 2 years. Children of mothers who were consistently more responsive during both infancy and early adolescence, as well as children whose mothers became more responsive by age 12, achieved higher IQ and arithmetic scores, had more positive self-esteem, and their teachers reported fewer behavioral and emotional problems than children of mothers who were consistently less responsive both during infancy and at age 12. Continuity in parenting behaviors was related to control and criticism beginning in the toddler period and not to degree of responsiveness to the infant.