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Linking Maternal Warmth and Responsiveness to Children's Self-Regulation

While maternal warmth was predictive of better behavior regulation in the child overall, maternal responsiveness to child distress was specifically related to the child’s internalization of rules of conduct.

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  • N: 102
  • Subject Ages: Kindergarten children
  • Location: Germany, Konstanz
  • SES: Middle class
  • Eligibility: Parents of public kindergarten children who agreed to participate
  • Additional:
    • All families were of a European cultural background
    • 80% of the children lived in a two-parent household
    • All mothers had at least 12 years of schooling


  1. Maternal warmth will be positively related to the child’s behavioral regulation.
  2. Maternal responsiveness to distress would correlate positively with the child’s internalization of rules of conduct.
  3. Children’s gender and effortful control would interact with parenting behavior in predicting self-regulation skills.

Variables Measured, Instruments Used

  • Maternal warmth - the Child Rearing Practices Report-Q Sort
  • Maternal responsiveness to distress - the Coping with Children’s Negative Emotions Scale
  • Behavior regulation - the Snack Delay task of the Laboratory Temperament Assessment Battery-Preschool Version
  • Internalization of rules of conduct - Maternal Reports of Conscience Development
  • Effortful control - the Children’s Behavior Questionnaire




  1. Maternal warmth was a significant predictor of higher levels of behavior regulation independent of any contribution of maternal responsiveness to distress.
  2. Neither of the child variables (gender and effortful control) nor the mothers' level of education reached levels of significance in predicting the child’s behavior regulation.
  3. Maternal responsiveness and children’s internalization of rules of conduct were significantly and positively associated, whereas maternal warmth was not a predictor. Girls showed higher levels of internalization than boys.
  4. Mother’s level of education did not reach significance for internalization of rules of conduct.


  • Mothers in this study tended to show higher levels of warmth than in other studies, due to sample characteristics.
  • Reliance on self-reports
  • Cross-sectional data only
  • Not socioeconomically diverse