Maternal perception of infant intentionality at 4 and 8 months

Ruth Feldman, J. Steven Reznick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This study examines the degree to which mothers perceive infants as intentional and the relations among perception of intentionality, background variables, maternal emotional adjustment, and maternal interactive style. Forty mother-infant dyads were assessed when the infants were 4 months old, and 34 were retested at 8 months. Parent perception of infant intentionality (PPII) was measured via a rating of videotaped segments of infant behavior and an interview. Intentionality scores showed acceptable internal consistency and were positively intercorrelated at each age and across age. The two measures were aggregated to form an index of PPII at each age. Higher educational attainment was associated with lower PPII scores, experience with infants was associated with higher PPII scores, and academic knowledge about child development was not related to PPII. Mothers with more symptoms of anxiety had lower PPII scores, but high maternal separation anxiety was associated with higher PPII scores. Maternal symptoms of depression had a complex relation to PPII scores. Mothers rated as sensitive in mother-infant interactions had higher PPII scores. These variables accounted for 34% of the variance in PPII at 4 months and 49% at 8 months. There were also group differences: Mothers of 8-month-olds had higher PPII scores than mothers of 4-month-olds, mothers of girls had higher PPII scores than mothers of boys, and mothers attributed more intentionality in episodes with girls than in episodes with boys. The results are discussed in relation to mechanisms whereby PPII interacts with aspects of the parent and infant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-496
Number of pages14
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Gender differences
  • Intentionality
  • Maternal perception
  • Parent perception
  • Parent-child interaction


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