Family dynamics and child outcomes in early intervention: The role of developmental theory in the specification of effects

Clancy Blair, Rachel Peters, Frank Lawrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evaluations of early intervention for children facing biological and/or socioeconomic risk have tended to focus most directly on change in the child, treating family variables primarily as mediators of change. In contrast, the current study used developmental theory to articulate hypotheses that address one way in which a focus on the relationship between mother and child may be related to intervention efficacy. This study examined maternal control strategy and child compliance as a function of early intervention beginning at birth for low birth weight, preterm infants and their families and related these aspects of mother-child interaction to behavioral outcomes at age 3 (n=645). Overall, mothers receiving early intervention were no more likely to use a preferred control strategy, guidance orientation, in a structured compliance task than were mothers participating in a follow-up only condition. However, an association between early intervention and maternal guidance was observed among mothers of children who were consistently noncompliant during the task. As a result, maternal guidance as observed in the compliance interaction was associated with reduced externalizing and internalizing behavior at program end for children participating in the intervention but not the follow-up only condition. Findings highlight the value of focusing on the mother-child dyad and illustrate one way in which developmental theory can assist in the specification of treatment effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-467
Number of pages22
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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