Maternal warmth and toddler development: Support for transactional models in disadvantaged families

Lisa-Christine Girard, Orla Doyle, Richard E. Tremblay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Studies support cognitive and social domains of development as entwined in childhood, however, there is a paucity of investigation into the nature of the mother–child relationship within an interdependence framework. Furthermore, the focus on these processes within families from impoverished communities using frequent assessments in early childhood has been limited. Our objectives were to identify (1) the directional associations between toddler’s communication ability and social competence, (2) to establish whether the association between toddler’s communication ability and social competence is mediated by maternal warmth, and (3) to establish support for transactional models between toddlers’ outcomes and maternal warmth in disadvantaged communities in Ireland. Participants included 173 toddlers and their families enrolled in a prenatally commencing prevention programme. Toddler’s communication and social competence were assessed at 12, 18, 24 and 36 months and maternal warmth at 6 and 24 months. Cross-lagged models were estimated examining multiple paths of associations simultaneously. Direct and indirect paths of maternal warmth were also examined. Bi-directional associations were found between communication ability and social competence from 12 to 24 months but not thereafter. Maternal warmth did not significantly mediate these associations, however, support of a transactional model was found with social competence. The results support early positive associations between better communication ability and social competence in the first 2 years, however, they suggest that these associations are no longer present by the third year. The role of maternal warmth in fostering social competencies is important for toddlers and equally important is toddler’s level of social competence in eliciting increased maternal warmth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-507
JournalEuropean child & adolescent psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date22 Oct 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Oct 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • social competence
  • communication ability
  • early development
  • maternal warmth
  • transactional model


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