Maternal influences on effortful control in adolescence: Developmental pathways to externalizing behaviors

Ariana K. Ruof, Kit K. Elam, Laurie Chassin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Adolescents' effortful control is subject to numerous maternal influences. Specifically, a mother's own effortful control is associated with her child's effortful control. However, maternal substance use, psychopathology, and stress within the parenting role may also lead to poor effortful control for their child. Poor effortful control during adolescence can subsequently contribute to a variety of negative outcomes, including externalizing behaviors. A sample of 460 adolescents (47% female, 59.3% Non-Hispanic Caucasian) was selected from a longitudinal, multigenerational study. The goal was to examine maternal effortful control, substance use, psychopathology, and stress in their offspring's childhood (Mage = 6.27) and their influence on their children's effortful control in early adolescence (Mage = 12.21) and the subsequent effect of effortful control on adolescents’ externalizing behavior (Mage = 13.53). Maternal effortful control (measured via conscientiousness) and psychopathology were associated with adolescent effortful control, which was associated with externalizing behavior a year later. Additionally, there was a significant indirect association between maternal effortful control and adolescent externalizing behaviors via adolescent effortful control. Thus, adolescent effortful control is associated with maternal effortful control but also subject to specific maternal risk factors in childhood. These results inform potential maternal strategies for promoting positive developmental outcomes in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Development
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • early adversity
  • effortful control
  • externalizing
  • maternal influence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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