Based on a longitudinal sample of 115 Chinese children, the present study examined changes in mother–child relationships (closeness and conflict) during the transition to nursery care and how these relationships were associated with later growth in children’s social competence. The results did not indicate significant changes in mother–child relationships at the mean level but revealed significant individual variations in such changes. These variations were associated negatively with mother–child relationships at 3 months after nursery entry. Social competence showed positive linear growth across the nursery and junior kindergarten years, and significant individual variations in such growth. Initial conflict in mother–child relationships at 3 months after nursery entry positively predicted later growth in social competence. In contrast, initial social competence did not significantly predict changes over time in mother–child relationships. Findings are discussed in terms of how to help children navigate the transition to nursery care and develop their social competence. Copyright © 2012 Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health.