Parenting beliefs have a significant impact on the way parents interact with their children, but little is known about how children’s behaviors may relate to changes in parents’ childrearing beliefs over time, and whether changes in parents’ beliefs may mediate the relation between child behavior and changes in parenting practices. We examined whether child externalizing behaviors at first grade related to changes in mothers’ and fathers’ obedience-oriented childrearing beliefs between first and fourth grade; whether parent anxiety interacted with child behavior problems to create conditions under which parents’ beliefs were more resistant to change; and how changes in beliefs, in turn, related to changes in parents’ autonomy granting behaviors between first and fifth grade. Participants included 895 families enrolled in a rich archival dataset, the NICHD Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development. Results showed that greater child externalizing behavior at first grade related to decreases in autonomy granting behaviors among mothers and high-anxiety fathers, as well as increases in low-anxiety mothers’ traditional parenting beliefs. Mothers’ more traditional beliefs related to declines in their own autonomy granting, and fathers’ more traditional beliefs related to declines in their own and their partner’s autonomy granting. Finally, a significant indirect effect showed that for mothers low in anxiety, child externalizing behaviors related to increases in traditional parenting beliefs which, in turn, related to decreases in mothers’ autonomy granting. Findings are discussed in terms of parent gender differences and psychological flexibility.
The study examined how child externalizing behavior and parent anxiety relate to changes in parents’ beliefs and behaviors
Parents’ traditional, obedience-oriented parenting beliefs related to declines in their autonomy granting behaviors
For high-anxiety fathers, child externalizing related to declines in autonomy granting behaviors
For low-anxiety mothers, child externalizing related to declines in autonomy granting through traditional parenting beliefs
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bao, J., Gudmunson, C. G., Greder, K., & Smith, S. R. (2019). The impact of family rituals and maternal depressive symptoms on child externalizing behaviors: An urban–rural comparison. Child & Youth Care Forum, 48(6), 935–953. https://doi.org/10.1007/s105-66-019-09512-w.
Barnett, M., Shanahan, L., Deng, M., Haskett, M., & Cox, M. (2010). Independent and interactive contributions of parenting behaviors and beliefs in the prediction of early childhood behavior problems. Parenting: Science & Practice, 10(1), 43–59.
Berndt, T. J. (2004). Children’s friendships: Shifts over a half-century in perspectives on their development and their effects. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 50, 206–223. https://doi.org/10.1353/mpq.2004.0014.
Belsky, J. (1984). The determinants of parenting: a process model. Child Development, 55(1), 83–96. https://doi.org/10.2307/1129836.
Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. (2013). From parent to child to parent: paths in and out of problem behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(4), 515–529. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-012-9692-x.
Cooke, D., Priddis, L., Luyten, P., Kendall, G., & Cavanagh, R. (2017). Paternal and maternal reflective functioning in the Western Australian peel child health study. Infant Mental Health Journal, 38, 561–574.
Cribb, G., Moulds, M. L., & Carter, S. (2006). Rumination and experiential avoidance in depression. Behavior Change, 23, 165–176. https://doi.org/10.1375/bech.23.3.165.
Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 487–496. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.113.3.487.
Deighton, J., Humphrey, N., Belsky, J., Boehnke, J., Vostanis, P., & Patalay, P. (2018). Longitudinal pathways between mental health difficulties and academic performance during middle childhood and early adolescence. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 36(1), 110–126. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjdp.12218.
Ekmekci, H., Malda, M., Yagmur, S., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Mesman, J. (2016). The discrepancy between sensitivity beliefs and sensitive parenting behaviors of ethnic majority and ethnic minority mothers. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 48, 60–67. https://doi.org/10.1037/cbs0000032.
Ginsburg, G. S., & Schlossberg, M. C. (2002). Family-based treatment of childhood anxiety disorders. International Review of Psychiatry, 14, 143–154. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540260220132662.
Holden, G. W., & Miller, P. C. (1999). Enduring and different: A meta-analysis of the similarity in parents’ child rearing. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 223–254. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.223.
Jessee, A., McElwain, N. L., & Booth-LaForce, C. (2016). Maternal supportive behavior, cognitive talk, and desire/emotion talk at 24 months: Distinct factors and differential antecedents. Parenting: Science & Practice, 16(2), 63–86.
Kochanska, G. (1990). Maternal beliefs as long-term predictors of mother-child interaction and report. Child Development, 61(6), 1934–1943. https://doi.org/10.2307/1130848.
Langfred, C. W. (2004). Too much of a good thing? The negative effects of high trust and autonomy in self-managing teams. Academy of Management Journal, 47, 385–399. https://doi.org/10.2307/20159588.
Lee, J. K., Orsillo, S. M., Roemer, L., & Allen, L. B. (2010). Distress and avoidance in generalized anxiety disorder: Exploring the relationships with intolerance of uncertainty and worry. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 39(2), 126–136. https://doi.org/10.1080/1650-6070902966918.
Leeming, E., & Hayes, S. C. (2016). Parents are people too: The importance of parental psychological flexibility. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice,, 23(2), 158–160.
Liu, J. (2004). Childhood externalizing behavior: Theory and implications. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 17(3), 93–103. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6171.2004.tb00003.x.
Maskalan, A. (2016). In the name of the father: A discussion on (new) fatherhood, its assumptions and obstacles. Revija Za Socijalnu Politiku, 23(3), 383–398. https://doi.org/10.3935/rsp.v23i3.1295.
McLean, C. P., & Anderson, E. R. (2009). Brave men and timid women? A review of the gender differences in fear and anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 496–505. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2009.05.003.
Miller, S. A. (1988). Parents’ beliefs about children’s cognitive development. Child Development, 59, 259–285. https://doi.org/10.2307/1130311.
Moyer, D. N., & Sandoz, E. K. (2015). The role of psychological flexibility in the relationship between parent and adolescent distress. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 1406–1418. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-014-9947-y.
Musick, K., Meier, A., & Flood, S. (2016). How parents fare: Mothers’ and fathers’ subjective well-being in time with children. American Sociological Review, 81(5), 1069–1095. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122416663917.
Muthén, L. K. & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2017). Mplus user’s guide. Muthén & Muthén.
Park, H., & Lau, A. S. (2016). Socioeconomic status and parenting priorities: Child independence and obedience around the world. Journal of Marriage & Family, 78(1), 43–59.
Patterson, G. R. (1982). Coercive family process (Vol. 3). Castalia Publishing Company.
Petersen, I. T., & LeBeau, B. (2020). Language ability in the development of externalizing behavior problems in childhood. Journal of Educational Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000461.supp.
Preacher, K. J., Rucker, D. D., & Hayes, A. F. (2007). Addressing moderated mediation hypotheses: Theory, methods, and prescriptions. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42, 185–227. https://doi.org/10.1080/00273170701341316.
Rapee, R. M. (1997). Potential role of childrearing practices in the development of anxiety and depression. Clinical Psychology Review, 17(1), 47–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-7358(96)00040-2.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and wellbeing. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68.
Schaefer, E. S., & Edgerton, M. (1985). Parent and child correlates of parental modernity. In I. E. Sigel (Ed.), Parental belief systems: Psychological consequences for children (pp. 287-318). Erlbaum.
Schofield, T. J., & Weaver, J. M. (2016). Democratic parenting beliefs and observed parent sensitivity: Reciprocal influences between coparents. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(4), 509–515. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000166.
Spielberger, C. D., & Sydeman, S. J. (1994). State-trait anxiety inventory and state-trait anger expression inventory. In M. E. Maruish (Ed.), The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcome assessment (pp. 292–321). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Teetsel, R. N., Ginsburg, G. S., & Drake, K. L. (2014). Anxiety-promoting parenting behaviors: A comparison of anxious mothers and fathers. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 45, 133–142. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-013-0384-8.
Thomas, A. J. (2000). Impact of racial identity on African American child-rearing beliefs. Journal of Black Psychology, 26, 317–329. https://doi.org/10.1177/009579840002600-3004.
Timpano, K. R., Keough, M. E., Mahaffey, B., Schmidt, N. B., & Abramowitz, J. (2010). Parenting and obsessive compulsive symptoms: Implications of authoritarian parenting. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 24(3), 151–164. https://doi.org/10.1891/0889-83184.108.40.206.
Woodruff-Borden, J., Morrow, C., Bourland, S., & Cambron, S. (2002). The behavior of anxious parents: Examining mechanisms of transmission of anxiety from parent to child. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 31(3), 364–374. https://doi.org/10.1207/S-15374424JCCP3103_08.
Yan, N., Ansari, A., & Wang, Y. (2019). Intrusive parenting and child externalizing behaviors across childhood: The antecedents and consequences of child-driven effects. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(6), 661–670. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000551.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Partain, J.A., Nelson, J.A. & Hafiz, M. Parents’ Obedience Beliefs and Autonomy Granting: The Role of Child Externalizing and Parent Anxiety. J Child Fam Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-02087-y
- Middle childhood