Infant social interactions with multiple caregivers: The importance of ethnicity and socioeconomic status

Hillary N. Fouts, Jaipaul L. Roopnarine, Michael E. Lamb, Melanie Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Most studies of diverse populations of families within the United States have either focused predominantly on ethnicity or socioeconomic status (SES), and those that have examined both ethnicity and SES have noted difficulties in disentangling the effects of SES and ethnicity. In order to achieve a greater understanding of variation in infant experiences with parental and nonparental caregivers in differing socioeconomic and ethnic contexts, 41 infants from African American and 40 infants from European American families of lower and middle SES were observed for 12 hours each in and around their home environments. Ethnic differences were evident in the infants' overall experiences with caregivers, maternal availability, affection, caregiving, and stimulation by nonnuclear relatives; SES differences were identified for maternal and paternal holding, maternal carrying, and paternal caregiving. When caregiver availability was taken into account, variations in interactional and care experiences were predominantly predicted by ethnicity. These results underscore the need to study both ethnicity and socioeconomic variation rather than either one alone. Furthermore, the caregiving behaviors of African American mothers and fathers may be misrepresented when multiple SES contexts are not considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-348
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • family/child rearing
  • infant/child cultural psychology
  • socioeconomic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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