This study examines to which extent the quality of mother-child interaction during infancy can predict cognitive (IQ) and noncognitive skills (persistence) until pre-school age using data from the Mannheim Study of Children at Risk. Research suggests that the mother-child dyad is influenced by maternal behaviour, infant behaviour as well as by the resulting motherchild interaction. The Mannheim Study of Children at Risk is a longitudinal study, starting in 1986 when the children are born. The quality of motherchild interaction is captured by a ten minute video of a care and a play situation. Maternal behaviour is broken down into eight dimensions (emotion, tenderness, verbalization, verbal restrictions, congruity/authenticity, variability, reactivity/sensitivity and stimulation), infant behaviour is broken down into five dimensions (emotion/facial expressions, verbalization, viewing direction, reactivity and the potential willingness to interact). We estimate econometric models that use psychosocial and organic initial risk conditions at birth, socio-emotional family environment and household income as explanatory variables in addition to mother-child interaction. According to our regressions interaction in the dyad, maternal responsiveness and child’s reactivity, have a significant impact on child IQ already at pre-school age. Furthermore, maternal responsiveness predicts persistence at pre-school age. From a methodological point of view, our results indicate that maternal responsiveness in the dyad, captured by a 10-minute video during infancy, already contributes to predicting the IQ later in life. Moreover, our results demonstrate that maternal responsiveness, an important emotional resource during childhood, varies to a significant degree between families. Thus, children are exposed to mother-child interaction to varying degrees, with inequality-increasing consequences for the formation of cognitive and noncognitive competencies. Important maternal behavioural traits that have a negative impact on competence formation are punishment, restrictions and the lack of contingency, especially during infancy and early childhood. Since maternal responsiveness can be trained, effective policies for disadvantaged children (those children who experience low degrees of contingency and stimulation during infancy and early childhood) should start in infancy.
Blomeyer, Dorothea, Manfred Laucht, Friedhelm Pfeiffer and Karsten Reuß (2010), Mutter-Kind-Interaktion im Säuglingsalter, Familienumgebung und Entwicklung früher kognitiver und nicht-kognitiver Fähigkeiten: Eine prospektive Studie, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 10-041, Mannheim. Download