Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Robert G. Wahler

Committee Members

Jenny Macfie, Richard Saudargas, Lance Laurence, Vey Nordquist


An abundance of research has investigated the mother responsiveness construct as an aggregate measure of the degree to which mothers react sensitively to what their children say and do. While the aggregate measure has proven useful in accounting for the ways mothers and children join in dyadic harmony, there is a dearth of information regarding the aggregates’ components. Twenty clinic-referred and thirty-two volunteer mother-child dyads were observed in their home settings for 1 hour per dyad. Observers monitored mother and child responsiveness during the dyadic interactions and childrens’ neutral, positive, and negative responses were recorded. The mother’s responsive social reactions were also recorded, as well as their unresponsive social reactions to their children’s negative responses. Results showed that the aggregate measures of mother and child responsiveness differentiated the two groups in expected ways. The volunteer dyads were more responsive than their clinic-referred counterparts and the volunteer children were less negative and more neutral than were the clinic-referred children. The component measures, however, yielded unexpected similarities between groups that were obscured by the aggregate measures. Children in both groups displayed similar rates of positive behaviors and both groups of mothers reacted in synchronous ways with their children’s positive, neutral, and negative responses. The present findings suggest that measuring the components of mother and child responsiveness may prove useful in accounting for the specific ways in which children are embracing or resisting the socialization process.

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