Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


Parental sensitivity is a key determinant of attachment security and child well-being. Yet many parents in our region face challenges to parenting, such as increased exposure to adverse experiences and depression. Both cumulative exposure to adverse experiences and depression symptoms have been associated with increased risk to parenting (Hays-Grudo & Wilson, 2020). The present study explores connections between parents’ sensitivity/synchrony scores on the Toddler CARE-Index (TCI: Crittenden, 2007), Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) amongst parents, and parental depression. As part of a larger longitudinal study of Eastern Kentucky families, 35 children (mean age 4.5 years) and their parents participated in the Strange Situation (Ainsworth, Blehar, & Waters, 1978). This separation-reunion procedure places caregivers under some stress. Higher TCI ratings, on a 15-point scale, indicate which parents modify their behavior to stay consistently sensitive to their child’s needs. Parents also completed an interview about their childhood with their families. These were rated for the presence of trauma (most often sexual abuse); family substance abuse; loss of a parent (usually separation); excessive physical discipline; and emotional abuse. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale assessed parents self-report of these symptoms. Although coding with the TCI is ongoing, analyses with 28 families indicate that sensitivity scores are associated with both parental depression and their ACEs exposure. These findings suggest a role for sensitivity in the intergenerational transmission of risk.