Ebb and Flow in Parent-Child Interactions: Shifts from Early through Middle Childhood

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11 Scopus citations


SYNOPSIS: Objective. This study documents the strength of relations between key parent and child behaviors as they occur during typical encounters for both mothers and fathers, and determines whether there were shifts in the strength of relations between parent and child behaviors during early and middle childhood. Design. Multivariate multi-level modeling was used to examine associations between three parent behaviors (respect for autonomy, stimulation of development, hostility) and two child behaviors (agency, negativity) as they occurred in typical parent-child activities at four time points from 54 months through fifth grade for 817 families. Results. For mothers and fathers, respect for autonomy and stimulation were associated with child agency. Paternal hostility was negatively associated with child agency, but for mothers the relation became more positive with age. Parental respect for autonomy and hostility were associated with child negativity for both mothers and fathers; however, for mothers, relations between autonomy support and child negativity became more positive, and relations between hostility and child negativity became less positive. Conclusions. There are clear shifts in the strength of relations between some parenting behaviors and child behaviors from early to middle childhood, indicative of a changing dialectic as children become more independent and different dialectics for mothers and fathers. Parenting behavior links to child competence and adaptive behavior, and the findings may help resolve some uncertainties about relations between parental behavior and children’s developmental trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-320
Number of pages26
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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