Mother and Caregiver Sensitivity Over Time: Predicting Language and Academic Outcomes With Variable- and Person-Centered Approaches

Sensitive and responsive caregiving is associated with better cognitive and language outcomes. Using the longitudinal data set from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, this study asks how changes in the sensitivity of both mothers and caregivers from 6 months to 6 years relates to language and academic outcomes at the start of formal schooling. Three questions are posed: (1) How variable is the quality of caregiving that children experience from mothers and child care providers during early childhood? (2) Do children benefit from both sensitive parents and sensitive caregivers? (3) Are changes in sensitivity over time related to cognitive and language outcomes at the end of preschool and the beginning of formal education? Person-centered and variable-centered analyses revealed that children experience changing patterns of sensitivity across time, that children benefit from sensitive interactions with all adults, and that changes in the sensitivity children experience across time are associated with both language and cognitive outcomes.