PATTERNS OF EMOTIONAL AVAILABILITY IN MOTHER-INFANT DYADS: ASSOCIATIONS WITH MULTIPLE LEVELS OF CONTEXT.Infant Ment Health J. 2015 Sep-Oct; 36(5):469-82.IM
This study explored emotional availability (EA)- an individual's emotional responsiveness and attunement to another's needs and goals (R.N. Emde, 1980)- among a high social risk group of 226 adolescent mothers and their infants (average = 12 months old). The aim was to identify dyadic patterns of EA and to examine their association with multiple indicators of the ecological context. Maternal sensitivity, maternal nonhostility, and child responsiveness were assessed with the Emotional Availability Scales, Third Edition (Z. Biringen, J. Robinson, & R.N. Emde, 1998) during free play and teaching observations at home. Four EA patterns were identified using k-means cluster analysis: (a) "low functioning," (b) "high functioning," (c) "low functioning dyads with nonhostile mothers," and (d) "inconsistently sensitive mother and responsive child." These patterns had distinct associations with (a) mothers' parenting attitudes regarding children's power and independence and parent-child role reversal, (b) mothers' strategies in conflict resolution with their partners and their children, and (c) the dyads' living arrangements. This study makes a contribution to the understanding of the mother-child relationship from a systemic and relational perspective and explores the association of EA patterns with the dyads' relational context. Implications for programs and treatment approaches aimed at supporting dyads at social risk are discussed.