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Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 769–778 | Cite as

Maternal Empathy and Changes in Mothers’ Permissiveness as Predictors of Toddlers’ Early Social Competence with Peers: A Parenting Intervention Study

  • Caroline Christopher
  • Rachel Saunders
  • Deborah Jacobvitz
  • Rosalinda Burton
  • Nancy Hazen
Original Paper

Abstract

The goal of the current study was to examine how changes in parenting due to a parenting intervention designed to decrease permissive parenting affected the quality of children’s peer interactions. Forty-nine mothers of toddlers aged 2–3 years participated in a 12-week intervention in which half got hands-on training and practice using positive guidance in a toddler classroom setting, while the other half learned positive guidance solely via a seminar format. To observe children’s peer interactions, toddlers were divided into 8 groups of 5–7 children mixed across condition. Observers coded mothers’ empathy, permissiveness, and positive guidance parenting strategies. Children’s peer interactions were coded for antisocial behaviors, verbal aggression, physical aggression, prosocial behaviors, positive social bids, and empathy. Prior analysis of this intervention indicated that mothers in both conditions showed reductions in permissiveness over the course of the intervention. Results from the present study indicated that reductions in permissiveness predicted decreases in toddlers’ verbal aggression. Maternal empathy was a moderator such that mothers low in empathy who got hands-on training in positive guidance had children who demonstrated the greatest reductions in antisocial behaviors.

Keywords

Peer relationships Maternal empathy Permissive parenting Toddler Social competence 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Christopher
    • 1
  • Rachel Saunders
    • 1
  • Deborah Jacobvitz
    • 1
  • Rosalinda Burton
    • 1
  • Nancy Hazen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family SciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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