Doris Duke 2013 Fellows
Jennifer Mortensen is a doctoral student at the University of Arizona in the Division of Family Studies and Human Development, with a concentration in infant/toddler socioemotional development within the context of family stress and poverty. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Ms. Mortensen worked at Early Head Start as an infant/toddler preschool teacher. She received both her M.S. in human development and family studies and B.S. in early childhood education at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The Protective Role of the Caregiving Relationship in Child Care for Infants and Toddlers from High Risk Families
Harsh and dysfunctional parenting experiences throughout infancy have a deleterious effect on children’s emotional development, including emotion regulation. From an ecological perspective, it is important to consider the role other regular caregivers play in these processes. For infants and toddlers enrolled in child care, the quality of the teacher-child caregiving relationship has the potential to offset the poor emotion regulation outcomes associated with negative parenting experiences. Moreover, it is of critical importance to examine these processes in socioeconomically disadvantaged families in which negative parenting experiences are often intensified by stressors associated with living in poverty. The goal of this dissertation is to provide theoretical and empirical evidence that caregiving experiences in child care promote children’s emotion regulation and serve as a protective factor for infants and toddlers experiencing negative parenting behaviors, high rates of physical and verbal punishment, and dysfunctional parent-child interactions at home. Additionally, this dissertation will explore children’s differential susceptibility to home and child care caregiving experiences. Secondary data analyses will be conducted with the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSRE), a longitudinal evaluation of EHS participating and EHS eligible families. The present analyses will be conducted with the subsample of families who participated in classroom-based child care, utilizing longitudinal data from 14-month, 24-month, 36-month, and preschool (child age) time points.