What is it about?

In a new study, we followed 120 mothers and babies over the first five months post-birth. We found that being emotionally perceptive, or able to identify others’ emotional states from their facial expressions, is a key predictor of mothers' sensitive caregiving toward their babies.

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Why is it important?

Sensitive and responsive interactions with caregivers are critical for building babies’ brains and forecasting later social skills and even physical health. The findings provide support for programs that build caregivers’ emotional skills, including the ability to recognize others’ joy. Understanding the emotional intelligence skills that support sensitive caregiving can help inform early interventions to foster healthy, secure parent-child relationships.


One of the best parts of my job is watching the 'dance' between infants and caregivers. Every parent and child has their own rhythm, and sometimes the interaction elevates them into a state of what Mary Ainsworth called 'mutual delight.'

Jessica Stern
University of Virginia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Maternal recognition of positive emotion predicts sensitive parenting in infancy., Emotion, October 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/emo0001125.
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