Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Crockenberg, Susan


Abstract The aim of this study was to determine whether maternal sensitivity acts as a mediator in the associations between a mother‟s childhood history of care and her child‟s emotion regulation and attachment security at 2 ½ years of age. It was hypothesized that children of mothers who perceived their own childhood experiences with parents as caring and accepting would display more adaptive regulatory behaviors in fear-eliciting contexts and be more securely attached than children of mothers who recollected rejection in their own childhood experiences, with maternal sensitivity mediating these associations. Participants were 82 toddlers and their mothers. Mothers rated their childhood experiences of care and acceptance with their own parents prior to the laboratory procedure. Each child was presented with four novel stimuli, with mothers present, but not involved for the first two tasks and involved in the remaining two. Presentation of the novel stimuli was in pairs including one toy task (i.e., monster or robot) and one person task (i.e., clown or masks). Children‟s emotion regulation behaviors were coded continuously during the mother not involved condition, whereas observed maternal sensitivity was rated in the mother involved condition. Information about maternal sensitivity and children‟s attachment behaviors was reported by mothers using a diary technique. A path analysis was used to test the model examining the relationship between maternal history of care and sensitivity and children‟s attachment security and emotion regulation behaviors (i.e., distraction, withdrawal, contact with mother). Maternal sensitivity mediated the association between a mother‟s childhood history of care and acceptance and child attachment. Post-hoc analysis showed that this conditional indirect effect was significant only for children of mothers with less than a complete college education. In contrast, a childhood history of care and acceptance did not predict children‟s emotional regulation behaviors, although it interacted with education to predict distraction. Maternal sensitivity was associated positively with distraction and negatively with withdrawal, whereas children‟s attachment security was not associated with any emotion regulation behavior. Results are discussed in relation to attachment theory and continuities and discontinuities in the transmission process in mother-child relationships.