Cross-Cultural Differences in Maternal Sensitivity and Child Behavior Among Chinese Canadian and European Canadian Families
Chan, Jessica Lynn
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This study assessed differences in observational ratings of maternal sensitivity among European and Chinese Canadian mothers and their children between the ages of 0 and 3. Potential moderating variables (stress, attributions, socioeconomic factors, and acculturation) in the relationship between culture and sensitivity were examined, and the association between maternal sensitivity and child outcome variables (socio-emotional development, behaviour problems, and cognitive functioning) were identified. Both cultural groups were well-matched on several, potentially confounding, demographic variables, including income, employment status, and education. No significant differences in maternal sensitivity were identified across cultures. However, Chinese Canadian dyads displayed significantly lower infant total scores (responsiveness and cueing) than European Canadian mothers. Only culture was identified as a significant predictor of cultural differences in infant scores. In the overall sample, child age was a significant predictor of maternal sensitivity, while culture was not. With respect to child outcome, Chinese Canadian children exhibited lower maternally-rated socio-emotional development scores and lower researcher-rated language development scores. Only culture was identified as a significant predictor of these differences, and no significant interactions were identified. Qualitative analysis of participant descriptions of maternal sensitivity revealed that Chinese Canadian mothers were less likely than European Canadian mothers to emphasize attunement to childrens socioemotional needs, particularly during early stages of infancy. Results suggest that cultural differences in maternal sensitivity may be lessened in immigrant populations where SES is high and well-matched across groups. Findings also highlight the importance of studying infant responsiveness and the dyadic nature of maternal sensitivity when studying cross-cultural differences in caregiving behaviour.