Hsu, H., & Lavelli, M. (2005). Perceived and observed parenting behavior in American and Italian first-time mothers during the first three months. Infant Behavior & Development, 28,503-518. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2005.09.001
Abstract.This short-term longitudinal study investigated cross-cultural universality (similarities) and cultural specificity (differences) in American and Italian first-time mothers’ perceived parenting efficacy and observed parenting behavior in early infancy. Thirty-two mother–infant dyads from the United States (n = 16) and Italy ( n = 16) participated in this study at 1 and 3 months across the first developmental transition. Maternal self-efficacy in parenting was assessed by self-reports. Mothers’ parenting behavior was observed and videotaped in a feeding situation. Both micro- (15-s time sampling) and macro-analytic (global ratings) strategies were employed to measure maternal and infant behaviors. Results revealed both cross-cultural similarities and differences in American and Italian mothers’ perceived parenting efficacy and observed parenting behavior. Both American and Italian mothers perceived themselves as becoming more efficacious in their parental role from 1 to 3 months and demonstrated significant stability in their individual differences over time. Compared to American mothers, Italian mothers displayed greater social/affective and handling/holding behavior. Whereas American mothers showed more synchronous responses to their infants when they were resting, Italian mothers spent significantly more time in synchronous dyadic social exchanges with their infants. The findings are discussed from the perspective of cultural organization of parenting, which suggests that parents structure everyday activity for their infants in accordance with cultural values and expectations.