Infant, Interpersonal relations, Mothers



  1. Schiffman, Rachel F. PhD, RN
  2. Omar, Mildred A. PhD, RNC
  3. McKelvey, Lorraine M. MA


Purpose: To describe interaction patterns of low-income mothers and infants and to compare the study sample to a larger, diverse sample from a national database.


Study Design and Method: Data from 156 mothers with infants under 12 months of age were identified from the first wave of a longitudinal evaluation of an early childhood intervention program. Trained data collectors using the NCAST Teaching Scale conducted observations in the home. Differences among the study sample on selected demographic characteristics were calculated. Comparisons between the study sample and a sample of similar mothers from the NCAST database were performed.


Results: The study sample as a whole was most like a low-education adolescent comparison group, and least like a high-education adult comparison group. They scored significantly lower on most scales of the NCAST Teaching Scale than a NCAST database sample of educated adults. About 40% of the dyads had scores below the NCAST 10th percentile cutoff, with a higher percent of mothers having lower scores than infants.


Clinical Implications: Nurses should routinely assess parent-child interaction in all high-risk, disadvantaged families with very young children. Nurses can help mothers understand and capitalize on their infants' capacity to interact, particularly in early months of life. Future research should include changes in interaction patterns over time and exploration of factors that may have an impact on parent-child interactions.