Externalizing symptoms, effortful control, and intrusive parenting: A test of bidirectional longitudinal relations during early childhood

Nancy Eisenberg, Zoe E. Taylor, Keith F. Widaman, Tracy Spinrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

At approximately 30, 42, and 54 months of age (N = 231), the relations among children's externalizing symptoms, intrusive maternal parenting, and children's effortful control (EC) were examined. Both intrusive parenting and low EC have been related to psychopathology, but children's externalizing problems and low EC might affect the quality of parenting and one another. Mothers' intrusive behavior with their children was assessed with observations, children's EC was measured with mothers' and caregivers' reports, and children's externalizing symptoms were assessed with mothers', fathers', and caregivers' reports. In a structural equation panel model, bidirectional relations between intrusive parenting and EC were found: EC at 30 and 42 months predicted low levels of intrusive parenting a year later, controlling for prior levels of parenting and vice versa. Moreover, high levels of children's externalizing problems at both 30 and 42 months negatively predicted EC a year later, controlling for prior levels of EC. Although externalizing problems positively predicted high EC over time, this appeared to be a suppression effect because these variables had a strong negative pattern in the zero-order correlations. Moreover, when controlling for the stability of intrusive parenting, EC, and externalizing (all exhibited significant stability across time) and the aforementioned cross-lagged predictive paths, EC and externalizing problems were still negatively related within the 54-month assessment. The findings are consistent with the view that children's externalizing behavior undermines their EC and contributes to intrusive mothering and that relations between intrusive parenting and EC are bidirectional across time. Thus, interventions that focus on modifying children's externalizing problems (as well as the quality of parenting) might affect the quality of parenting they receive and, hence, subsequent problems with adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)953-968
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Volume27
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Externalizing symptoms, effortful control, and intrusive parenting: A test of bidirectional longitudinal relations during early childhood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this