The myth of universal sensitive responsiveness: comment on Mesman et al., (2017)

Heidi Keller, Kim Bard, Gilda Morelli, Nandita Chaudhary, Marga Vicedo, Mariano Rosabal-Coto, Gabriel Scheidecker, Marjorie Murray, Alma Gottlieb

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This paper considers claims of Mesman et al. (2017) that sensitive responsiveness in caregiving, while not uniformly expressed across cultural contexts, is nonetheless universal. Evidence presented demonstrates that none of the sensitivity components (i.e., which partner takes the lead, whose point of view is primary, and the turn-taking structure of interactions) or maternal warmth are universal. Mesman and colleagues’ proposal that sensitivity is ‘providing for infant needs’ is critiqued. Constructs concerning caregiver quality must be embedded within a nexus of cultural logic, including caregiving practices, based on ecologically-valid child-rearing values and beliefs. Sensitivity, as defined by Mesman and Attachment theorists, is not universal. Attachment theory and cultural, cross-cultural psychology are not built on common ground.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1921-1928
JournalChild Development
Issue number5
Early online date23 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


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