mom sensitivity

As someone interested in development, I know there’s a whole lotta research out there on the importance of parental sensitivity.  Both correlational and randomized trials have shown that mother sensitivity leads to better attachment and social adjustment.  So what is “sensitivity”?  Well, it goes by many names including synchrony, coordination, and attunement — but basically it comes down to this question: does the mother respond appropriately to the baby’s responses?  For instance, when the baby is interested in something, engaging in joint attention is seen as a sensitive response.

For most mothers, this sensitivity feels very natural and intuitive.  However, there are some populations at risk for having poor parental sensitivity… parents of ‘irritable’ infants, low income mothers, depressed/anxious mothers, etc.  Research has shown that recording their interactions with their children and receiving coaching on sensitivity seems to promote positive social outcomes.  But now that research is hitting the “overachiever” mom population (see LA times article:,0,521976,full.story).

The reporter shares about her own (rather positive) experience going through this video coaching (microanalysis) with a therapist (Aimee Wheeler, PsyD).  I can see why this video intervention might appeal to the overachiever or anxious parent…  But I’m glad that the reporter talked to Beatrice Beebe, Columbia professor and an influential researcher in mother-infant interactions and video microanalysis.  She cites two studies (Beebe et al., 2000, 2010) that show negative outcomes associated with being too vigilant and too sensitive (as well as the other extreme of not being vigilant enough).

Personally, I want to be mindful of being attentive to cogscibaby… but dude, let’s get real, I know that I will be tired and have 10 million things to do.  I won’t always be optimally attentive… and research shows, that’s a-okay!


3 thoughts on “mom sensitivity

  1. David says:

    I just have one thing to say … any amount of vigilante is too vigilante!

    I’m sure you meant vigilant. 🙂

  2. treevalley says:

    i wonder how attentive we will be to baby Amos as sleep deprived zombie parents. hopefully he won’t become “vigilante” on us. hahah!

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