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Prospective Relations Among Fearful Temperament, Protective Parenting, and Social Withdrawal: The Role of Maternal Accuracy in a Moderated Mediation Framework

Abstract

Early social withdrawal and protective parenting predict a host of negative outcomes, warranting examination of their development. Mothers’ accurate anticipation of their toddlers’ fearfulness may facilitate transactional relations between toddler fearful temperament and protective parenting, leading to these outcomes. Currently, we followed 93 toddlers (42 female; on average 24.76 months) and their mothers (9% underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds) over 3 years. We gathered laboratory observation of fearful temperament, maternal protective behavior, and maternal accuracy during toddlerhood and a multi-method assessment of children’s social withdrawal and mothers’ self-reported protective behavior at kindergarten entry. When mothers displayed higher accuracy, toddler fearful temperament significantly related to concurrent maternal protective behavior and indirectly predicted kindergarten social withdrawal and maternal protective behavior. These results highlight the important role of maternal accuracy in linking fearful temperament and protective parenting, which predict further social withdrawal and protection, and point to toddlerhood for efforts of prevention of anxiety-spectrum outcomes.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. As opposed to a traditional ordinary least squares (OLS) method of estimating the dyad-specific relation between maternal predictions and toddler behaviors (i.e., calculating the slope from a regression equation using only that dyad’s data), the EB estimates incorporate the data for a particular dyad with the pattern of information across all dyads, resulting in reduced sampling variance surrounding the estimate and yielding more stable and reliable estimates (Candel and Winkens 2003; Raudenbush and Bryk 2002). This is particularly needed for dyads in which mothers made consistently low or consistently high ratings, which could result in a restricted range and therefore a lower estimate of the association between predictions and toddler behaviors in an OLS framework. The EB estimates are strengthened by using all information.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth J. Kiel.

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The project from which these data were derived was supported by a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (F31 MH077385) granted to Elizabeth Kiel, and a grant to Kristin Buss from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH075750). We reported a portion of these results at the biennial conference for the Society for Research in Child Development in Denver, CO (March, 2009). We express our appreciation to the families and toddlers who participated in this project.

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Kiel, E.J., Buss, K.A. Prospective Relations Among Fearful Temperament, Protective Parenting, and Social Withdrawal: The Role of Maternal Accuracy in a Moderated Mediation Framework. J Abnorm Child Psychol 39, 953–966 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9516-4

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Keywords

  • Temperament
  • Parenting
  • Inhibition
  • Social withdrawal