Although successful caregiver–child relationships include many components, the most central component is predictably warm and responsive interactions—reactions that are consistent, prompt, contingent, appropriate, and in support of the child’s needs. The ability of a caregiver to interact with the child in predictably warm, responsive ways is crucial because the moment-to-moment interactions accumulate to shape the child’s expectations, behaviors, schemas, and developmental progress. Underlying the formation of warm, positive relationships is layer upon layer of sensitive, responsive interactions over some extended period of time.

Historical Background

Attempts to parse out the sequences, functions, and outcomes of caregiver–child interactions are relatively new, beginning perhaps with William James, who, in the late 1800s, studied innate social response systems. Psychoanalytic theorists from the 1940s onward, through an object-relations prism, believed that ...

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