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J Cross Cult Psychol. 2012 Feb 1;43(2):171-197.

Emotional Relationships in Mothers and Infants: Culture-Common and Community-Specific Characteristics of Dyads from Rural and Metropolitan Settings in Argentina, Italy, and the United States.

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Child and Family Research Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institutes of Health Public Health Service.


This study uses country and regional contrasts to examine culture-common and community-specific variation in mother-infant emotional relationships. Altogether, 220 Argentine, Italian, and U.S. American mothers and their daughters and sons, living in rural and metropolitan settings, were observed at home at infant age 5 months. Both variable- and person-centered perspectives of dyadic emotional relationships were analyzed. Supporting the notion that adequate emotional relationships are a critical and culture-common characteristic of human infant development, across all samples most dyads scored in the adaptive range in terms of emotional relationships. Giving evidence of community-specific characteristics, Italian mothers were more sensitive, and Italian infants more responsive, than Argentine and U.S. mothers and infants; in addition, rural mothers were more intrusive than metropolitan mothers, and rural dyads more likely than expected to be classified as mid-range in emotional relationships and less likely to be classified as high in emotional relationships. Adaptive emotional relationships appear to be a culture-common characteristic of mother-infant dyads near the beginning of life, but this relational construct is moderated by community-specific (country and regional) context.

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