Bidirectional associations among sensitive parenting, language development, and social competence

Melissa A. Barnett, Hanna Gustafsson, Min Deng, W. Roger Mills-Koonce, Martha Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Rapid changes in language skills and social competence, both of which are linked to sensitive parenting, characterize early childhood. The present study examines bidirectional associations among mothers' sensitive parenting and children's language skills and social competence from 24 to 36months in a community sample of 174 families. In addition, this study examines how these developmental pathways vary by child sex. Findings indicate stability across time in sensitive parenting, expressive language skills, and social competence, as well as positive main effects of sensitive parenting on expressive and receptive language skills for girls and boys. We find mixed evidence over time of reciprocal links between social competence and sensitive parenting. Further, boys' receptive language skills at 24months uniquely contribute to increases in mothers' observed sensitive parenting from 24 to 36months. These findings highlight the utility of applying transactional frameworks to the study of sex-based differences in early developmental processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-393
Number of pages20
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Early childhood
  • Language development
  • Parenting
  • Sex differences
  • Social competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Bidirectional associations among sensitive parenting, language development, and social competence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this