Bidirectional Associations between Parental Responsiveness and Children's Internalizing and Externalizing Moderation by Negative Emotionality

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Objective: Positive parenting behaviors and children’s internalizing problems are bidirectionally associated during late childhood and early adolescence. These bidirectional associations likely emerge earlier and may be stronger when the child is prone to reactive negative emotions, making parents’ support especially critical in children’s regulation of negative emotions. The purpose of this study was to test (a) bidirectional associations between parents’ positive responses to children’s behaviors and children’s internalizing problems from very early to middle childhood, and (b) the moderating role of children’s negative emotionality in these bidirectional associations (N = 4,898).

Results: Child-driven associations between internalizing problems and later responsive parenting were negatively associated from 3 to 5 years old and not associated from 5 to 9 years old. Parent-driven associations of responsivity at 3 and 5 years old were negatively associated with later internalizing problems at ages 5 and 9 years old respectively. Negative emotionality only moderated the parent-driven association between responsivity at 3 years old and internalizing problems at 5 years old, with higher responsivity being negatively associated with internalizing problems for children having more negative emotionality.

Conclusions: Parents’ responsivity to child behavior in early and middle childhood tends to be associated with fewer internalizing problems. Parents’ positive response to very young children’s behaviors may be especially beneficial for children with higher negative emotionality. These results also support those very young children experiencing internalizing problems may be more likely to receive less responsive parenting later, regardless of children’s negative emotionality.

Publication Status
Working Papers