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Parent–Child Proximity: Automatic Cognitions Matter


Individuals’ moving behavior (e.g., residential mobility) is an emerging topic in many scientific disciplines. One specific aspect is the distance between parents and their children (i.e., parent–child proximity). Although determinants and moderators of parent–child proximity can be manifold, we concentrated on the psychological concepts self-esteem and affect by assessing explicit (i.e., conscious) and implicit (i.e., automatic) aspects. Besides well-known correlates of moving behavior (e.g., education), we found that participants (N = 1,765; cross-sectional design) with high positive explicit affect and low negative implicit affect moved further away from their parents’ homes. Therefore, parent–child proximity may not be only based on fundamental sociocultural and socioeconomic needs (e.g., income, family bonds), but also on automatic psychological aspects, such as implicit affect.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    We also calculated a linear regression by including interaction terms between implicit and explicit affect as well as implicit and explicit self-esteem (see Jordan et al. 2003). These interaction terms were included in the regression analysis in a separate block to see whether the interaction terms have additional predictive power. Although we found some low effect (β = .07) of the interaction between explicit self-esteem (RSES) and implicit self-esteem measured with the IPT-last on parent–child proximity, this additional block in the regression analysis was not significant, ΔF(6,1,731) = 1.82, p = .09. Doing the same hierarchical linear regression with the reversed order of blocks, the interaction terms failed to explain any of the variance, F(6,1,743) = 1.40, p = .21.

  2. 2.

    One reviewer correctly pointed out that some of the prerequisites of a linear regression might be violated. In combination with the interpretation of low effect sizes, this could be problematic because some effects might be erratic. Nevertheless, a categorical regression taking the different levels of measurements of the predictor variables into account, revealed basically the same pattern (i.e., significance of sex, education, EPA, INA), which again speaks for the robustness of our findings (detailed results omitted for brevity).

  3. 3.

    The same analysis was performed with the real distance between participants and their parents. Again the logarithmic, quadratic, and cubic relationship did not substantially differ from the linear model (all R 2 ~ .01).


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Correspondence to Stefan Stieger.

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Stieger, S., Voracek, M. & Nader, I.W. Parent–Child Proximity: Automatic Cognitions Matter. Soc Indic Res 119, 967–978 (2014).

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  • Implicit cognitions
  • Moving behavior
  • Parent–child proximity
  • Positive/negative affect
  • Self-esteem