Friday, 14 January 2005 - 12:00 PM
This presentation is part of: Poster Session I
Influences on Mother-Infant Interaction in the Child Welfare SystemLynn Milgram Mayer, PhD, National Research Center for Child and Family Services.
Young children under age three are vulnerable to numerous risk factors, including involvement in the child welfare system. The impact of this stressor can be mediated by protective factors, such as mother-infant interaction. Mother-child interaction is a reciprocal process, involving both the mother and childís participation in the interaction, and it can significantly vary in quality.
Purpose: This study was designed to fill acknowledged gaps in the social work knowledge base on mother-child interaction within the child welfare system. The study addressed a current question in this field of practice: how the relationships between birth mothers and children differ from those between foster mothers and children. In particular, the study sought to build knowledge on the relationship between mother-child interaction and caregiver role (biological or foster mother), child developmental delay, and maternal social support.
Method: The sample for this mixed-method field study was recruited on the basis of convenience from an urban child welfare agency. Forty African American mother-child dyads participated; the children in the study were under three years of age. Data collection involved three methodologies: observations of mother-child interactions, structured interviews to obtain quantitative data, and open-ended interviews to obtain qualitative data. Quantitative measures used were: the Nursing Child Assessment Teaching Scale (Barnard, 1994), the Developmental Assessment Screening Scale (Farber, 2001), Inventory of Social Support (Trivette & Dunst, 1988), and the Program Review Data: Demographic and Descriptive Information Sheet. Quantitative data analysis used parametric and non-parametric methods. Content theme analysis was used for qualitative data.
Results: T-test results indicated that the foster mothers had significantly higher mean interaction scores (56) than the biological mothers (49). Correlational analyses revealed that child developmental delay had a negative, modest impact on scores related to child cuing and responding to cues (r=-.34, p<.05) and that social support had a positive, moderate impact on total interaction scores (r=.43, p<.05). Multivariate analysis also yielded significant findings. Mother-child interaction regressed on social support, caregiver role, and child developmental delay yielded significant relationships between mother-child interaction and social support and caregiver role. Mother-child interaction was also regressed on social support, parent education, and caregiver role to explore the possibility of a covariate; a significant relationship between mother-child interaction and social support was found. Content analysis of the qualitative data found different patterns of interaction by caregiver role and by child developmental delay.
Implications: Practice implications include the importance of assessing mother-child interaction, of facilitating enhancement of the motherís social support network, and of ensuring social workerís knowledge of child developmental delays. Policy implications include the relevance of including mother-child interaction assessment in policies for placement and permanency planning decisions.
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