The effects of a comprehensive early intervention program on the quality of maternal interactive behavior with low birthweight, premature infants

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Keith G. Scott - Committee Chair


Research suggests that low birthweight, premature infants show disturbances in early behavioral characteristics and interaction patterns that place them at risk for developmental problems. High quality intervention programs can reduce risk for detrimental child outcomes. The outcomes typically measured in these intervention programs are child health and/or developmental status. Intervention programs that focus solely on child outcome measures, however, fail to acknowledge one of the infant's most important and influential partners--the mother. Mother-child interaction is a major setting in which the child practices and learns social, cognitive, and communication skills. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that high quality, successful mother-child interactions facilitate developmental outcomes and child competence. Although some intervention studies are designed to help mothers and infants communicate and interact more effectively, few actually measure the quality of mother-child interaction as an outcome of the intervention. Thus, little is known about the influence of intervention programs on the quality of the dyadic exchanges. The present study investigated the effects of a comprehensive early intervention program on the quality of mother-child interaction with low birthweight, premature infants. The subjects were taken from a larger study, the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP). One focus of the IHDP curriculum was on helping parents interact effectively with their infants. Subjects were 300 mother-child dyads from three of the eight IHDP sites. Videotapes, made when the children were 30 months corrected age, permitted an opportunity to examine mother-child interaction during free-play. Mothers' ability to communicate effectively with their children was examined by examining qualitative interactive behaviors. The results showed significant differences in mother-child interaction between intervention and follow-up groups. Mothers in the intervention group showed higher quality maternal interactive behavior, including expressiveness, enjoyment, warmth, sensitivity, responsivity, achievement orientation, inventiveness, effectiveness, and acceptance. There were no significant differences between mothers in the intervention and follow-up groups on ratings of praise, pace, and directiveness. These findings provide evidence for the positive effect of early intervention programs on mother-child interactions and have implications for children's developmental outcomes.


Psychology, Social; Health Sciences, Public Health; Psychology, Developmental; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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