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Capturing the Complexity of Parent–Provider Relationships in Early Intervention: The Association With Maternal Responsivity and Children's Social–Emotional Development

Popp, Tierney K. PhD; Wilcox, M. Jeanne PhD

doi: 10.1097/IYC.0b013e318258c63a
Original Study

This investigation focused on the quality of parent–provider relationships in a Part C early intervention program. An observational coding system was developed as an exploratory tool to describe aspects of the parent–provider relationship over a 1-year period. In particular, we were interested in the extent to which the quality of the parent–provider relationship was related to maternal responsivity and children's social–emotional functioning. Participants included toddlers with developmental disabilities, aged 11–36 months, their mothers (n = 37), and their early intervention practitioners (n = 29). Observational coding was conducted at 3 intervals, with initial evidence supporting the use of the observational coding system. Composite scores of relationship quality were not significantly associated with parent or child outcomes, but more dynamic measures were. More specifically, attunement between the parent and provider on dimensions such as warmth and positive regard was associated with fewer child-internalizing behaviors. Change in mother behavior over time was related to higher levels of maternal responsivity. Findings are discussed in terms of the importance of examining the dynamic and transactional nature of parent–provider interactions over the course of an intervention.

Department of Family and Human Development (Dr Popp) and Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences (Dr Wilcox), Arizona State University, Tempe. Tierney K. Popp is now at the Department of Human Environmental Studies, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant.

Correspondence: Tierney Popp, PhD, Department of Human Environmental Studies, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859 (

None of the authors declared any conflict of interest or source of funding.

This research was supported by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs leadership training grants H325000004 and H325D06009, and the Institute for Education Sciences Research Grant R305T00049. Discussion of findings and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and no official endorsement by the US Department of Education agencies should be inferred.

©2012Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.