Get access

Development of Mutual Responsiveness Between Parents and Their Young Children


  • This research has been sponsored by the grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, RO1 MH63096 and KO2 MH01446 to the first author. We greatly appreciate the contributions of many students and staff to data collection and coding: Alissa Chisholm, Jennifer Carlson, Amanda Friesenborg, Lindsey Lange, Michelle Martel, Kate Nichols, Ryan Schiffer, and Jennifer Voaklander. We also thank the participants in the Family Study for their enthusiastic commitment to this research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Grazyna Kochanska, Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242. Electronic mail may be sent to


This comprehensive study of mutual responsiveness examined 102 mothers and 102 fathers interacting with their children at 7 and 15 months. Responsiveness was studied from developmental and individual differences perspectives, and assessed using macroscopic ratings and microscopic event coding. The latter captured parents' reactions to children's negative, positive, and physical bids, and children's reactions to parents' social-interactive bids, mood regulation attempts, and influence attempts. Responsiveness depended on bid type and child age, and reflected developmental changes in children, parents, and relationships. Mothers were more responsive than fathers; children were equally responsive to both parents and coherent in their responsiveness. Ratings revealed dyadic mutuality and longitudinal continuity of responsiveness. Parent–child responsiveness from 7 to 15 months was consistent with assumptions of a parent-driven process.