Developmental Transitions in Youth Behavioral Opposition and Maternal Beliefs in Social Ecological Context

  • Miriam K. Ehrensaft
  • Patricia Cohen
  • Henian Chen
  • Kathy Berenson
Original Paper


We investigated age-based changes in mothers’ complaints about offspring behavioral opposition, and offspring reports of opposition in a prospective longitudinal design (N = 821). Maternal complaints declined from pre-adolescence to early adulthood, but more slowly in low socioeconomic status (SES) and single-parent families. Mothers complained more about first- than later-born children, but showed no average differences for offspring gender, race, SES, or single parent status. Complaints covaried with youth-reported opposition, but effects involving SES, single-parent status, and birth order remained significant after opposition was controlled; this finding is interpreted to reflect social contextual differences in maternal beliefs. Youth opposition was stable to age 16, then decreased; higher levels were associated with earlier birth order and low SES among European-Americans. Our results have implications for parenting interventions, indicating that parents may benefit from education about the normative, gradual increase in concordance between their own expectations and their child’s behavior from early to late adolescence. Further, parenting interventions may be strengthened by actively attending to social contextual factors that shape parental belief systems and values.


Parenting Context Behavior problems Culture Development 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miriam K. Ehrensaft
    • 1
  • Patricia Cohen
    • 2
  • Henian Chen
    • 3
  • Kathy Berenson
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Child & Adolescent PsychiatryColumbia University at New York State Psychiatric InstituteNYUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryColumbia University at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public HealthNYUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryColumbia University at New York State Psychiatric InstituteNYUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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