Early maternal warm responsiveness as a predictor
of child social skills: Direct and indirect paths
of influence over time
Laura M. Steelman
, Mike A. Assel
, Paul R. Swank
Karen E. Smith
, Susan H. Landry
The University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, Houston, TX, USA
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston, TX, USA
This longitudinal study evaluated the effects of early maternal warm responsiveness on later child
social skills, investigating the roles of maternal discipline and child language as possible intervening
and reciprocal influences. Mother –child dyads (n = 252) were assessed when the children were at 12,
24, 40, and 54 months of age. Structural equation modeling (SEM) results indicated that early maternal
warm responsiveness has a direct effect on later child social skills above and beyond concurrent effects
and indirect effects through other variables, emphasizing the far-reaching influence of maternal warm
responsiveness early in the child’s life. Additionally, maternal disciplinary preferences were found to
play a mediating role between early maternal warm responsiveness and later child social skills. Child
language did not play a mediating role, though reciprocal relationships between maternal and child
variables were found. D 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Responsiveness; Warmth; Mothering; Social skills; Discipline
Warm responsiveness is a broad-based parenting style that impacts a number of aspects
of child development, among them child social skills (Chase-Lansdale, Wakschlag, &
0193-3973/02/$ – see front matter D 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 193-3973(02)00101-6
* Corresponding author. 13 Oakdale, Millburn, NJ 07041, USA. Tel./fax: +1-973-762-4585.
E-mail address: email@example.com (L.M. Steelman).
Applied Developmental Psychology
23 (2002) 135 –156