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Bidirectional Associations between Child Conduct Problems and Parenting Practices in Early Childhood

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Abstract

In line with early theoretical frameworks suggesting reciprocal associations between child behavior problems and parenting behaviors, the present study examined bidirectional associations between child conduct problems and lax, overreactive, and positive parenting. Participants included 293 mothers recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) who completed measures about their children, who were between the ages of three and six years of age, across a six-month period (82% White; 75.4% married). A cross-lagged panel model was conducted that examined associations between conduct problems and parenting (i.e., lax, overreactive, positive) across three waves that were each spaced approximately two months apart. This model also controlled for several demographic variables (i.e., income-to-needs ratio, race/ethnicity, marital status, child biological sex) and child hyperactivity. Findings demonstrated a parent-driven coercive pattern between lax parenting and child conduct problems, such that higher lax parenting at wave one was associated with higher child conduct problems at wave three, which was subsequently linked to higher lax parenting at wave five. Child-driven effects were identified for overreactive and positive parenting; higher child conduct problems were associated with higher overreactive and lower positive parenting behaviors. However. overreactive and positive parenting were not associated with child conduct problems at any wave. Findings support theories suggesting transactional associations between parenting and child behaviors. Further, results suggest lax parenting behaviors may demonstrate a unique effect on the development of early child conduct problems above and beyond overreactive and positive parenting behaviors.

Highlights

  • Parent-driven coercive pattern identified between lax parenting and higher child conduct problems.

  • Higher child conduct problems were associated with higher overreactive parenting.

  • Higher child conduct problems were associated with lower positive parenting.

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Correspondence to Samantha R. Awada.

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All procedures were in accordance with ethical standards. This study was approved by the Northern Illinois University Institutional Review Board.

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Awada, S.R., Shelleby, E.C. Bidirectional Associations between Child Conduct Problems and Parenting Practices in Early Childhood. J Child Fam Stud 30, 2705–2717 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-02104-0

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