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Trust in organismic development, autonomy support, and adaptation among mothers and their children

Abstract

The current studies examined relations between mothers’ trust in organismic development, autonomy supportive parenting, and adaptation among mothers and their young children. Study 1 showed that trust in organismic development was distinct from optimism, neuroticism, and social desirability whereas it correlated with having relaxed expectations for developmental milestones and making fewer social comparisons about one’s child. Study 2 used observational methods to demonstrate a significant link between trust in organismic development and mothers behaving in an autonomy-supportive rather than controlling manner toward their 1-year-old child during puzzle solving activities. Study 3 used a 1 year prospective design to show that trust in first time mothers was associated with better maternal and child adaptation over time, controlling for initial levels of adaptation and child temperament. Study 4 explored possible social/political antecedents of trust in organismic development by comparing the beliefs of first time mothers from Canada and Norway. The four studies suggest that trust in organismic development fosters autonomy supportive parenting practices and positive maternal and child adaptation. These findings are discussed from the perspective of self-determination theory.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. The first version of the trust scale included 12 items, but four of those items were abandoned because they seemed to be assessing whether the child was in fact developing normally, which could have been misleading in the interpretation of the results. The four items that were dropped were: “I think my child is developing normally”, “I often worry about my child’s development”, “I often wonder if my child is developing normally”, and “I am confident that my child will continue to develop in a healthy way in the future”.

  2. The same regression models were also conducted separately for the two components of the autonomy support variable: promotion of autonomy and thwarting autonomy. The regression of promotion of autonomy revealed a significant positive relation for organismic trust, beta = .30, t = 2.08, p < .05. The regression of thwarting autonomy revealed a highly significant negative relation, beta = −.51, t = −3.77, p < .001. Thus, trust in organismic development seemed to be especially related to mothers not being controlling or intrusive.

  3. The same regression models were also conducted separately for the two components of the maternal adjustment variable: role satisfaction and competence. The regression of role satisfaction revealed a significant positive relation for organismic trust, beta = .19, t = 2.15, p < .05. The regression of competence revealed a marginally significant positive relation, beta = .16, t = 1.77, p = .08.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Fonds Québécois de Recherche Sur la Société et la Culture, Quebec (FQRSC) to Richard Koestner. Renee Landry was supported by fellowships from the same two organizations. The data from Study 2 comes from a large longitudinal study by Annie Bernier.

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Correspondence to Renée Landry.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Factor loadings for items on trust in organismic development scale

Item Study 1 Study 2 Study 3
I believe that most parents don’t have to intervene in any specific way in order for their child to develop normally .60 .35 .59
I believe that parents should intervene as soon as they suspect that their child is developing a little slower than average (R) .76 .84 .74
I believe that most children develop in a healthy way, at their own pace .44 .35 .40
I believe that parents have to carefully supervise their child’s development to make sure that it is progressing normally (R) .76 .75 .80
I usually don’t worry too much about my child’s development .61 .57 .57
I carefully supervise my child’s development to make sure that it is normal (R) .78 .82 .78
I think it’s perfectly normal for my child to sometimes be slower than average when reaching a new stage in his/her development .42 .37 .44
I often wonder if I am doing the right things in order for my child to grow up healthy (R) .37 .52 .31
  1. Note: (R) indicates that the item is reversed

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Landry, R., Whipple, N., Mageau, G. et al. Trust in organismic development, autonomy support, and adaptation among mothers and their children. Motiv Emot 32, 173–188 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-008-9092-2

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Keywords

  • Self-determination theory
  • Trust in organismic development
  • Parental beliefs
  • Parental adjustment
  • Children’s functioning
  • Autonomy support