Maternal care as the central environmental variable



Publication Details

de Rosnay, M. & Murray, L. (2012). Maternal care as the central environmental variable. In L. C. Mayes & M. Lewis (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Environment in Human Development (pp. 58-82). New York, United States: Cambridge University Press.


This chapter describes the idea of maternal care within the theoretical tradition of psychoanalysis in which it was initially elaborated. It considers development in infancy and early childhood from the point of view of the infant growing toward independence within the context of maternal care. The chapter provides a portrait of the infant as an inherently social participant whose development promotes, and indeed requires, changing patterns of parental care to facilitate its progress. It considers research illustrating the nature of the relation between maternal care and development. To establish the significance of the environmental provision afforded by maternal care, it is necessary to make such empirical connections between mother-infant interactions and child outcomes. To some extent, the importance of maternal care can be observed within short time frames. This is most clearly demonstrated in the perturbation studies.

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