Association between maternal closeness with parents and mother–toddler relationship quality

Leigha A. MacNeill, Bharathi J. Zvara*, Sarah E. Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Understanding how positive parenting is conveyed across generations informs early childhood policy. Background: The extant literature has focused on how a mother's relationship with her own mother sets the stage for her parenting of her own children, yet less understood is how a mother's relationship with her father supports her responsive parenting and potentially informs her child's attachment security. Method: We analyzed data from 6,400 mothers of singleton infants participating in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort. We examined whether a mother's closeness with her own mother and father (Generation 1) related to her responsiveness and child attachment security (Generation 3) at age 24 months. Results: Most mothers reported being extremely (25.7%) or at least quite close (25.1%) with both their mother and father. How close mothers felt to their own parents was not associated with their observed level of responsiveness to their toddler or their toddler's attachment security, adjusting for sociodemographic covariates. Maternal education was the strongest predictor of responsiveness and attachment security. Conclusion: Maternal education is strongly related to responsiveness, and to a lesser extent, child attachment security, in toddlerhood. Implications.: Programs aimed at addressing the challenges of caregiving may overcome the limitations of lower education status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-660
Number of pages16
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • attachment
  • fathers
  • maternal education
  • parenting across generations
  • responsive parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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