Direct and Indirect Longitudinal Associations of Mother and Father Engagement in Middle Childhood on Adolescent Externalizing and Internalizing Behaviors

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Journal Article

Parent engagement is an important aspect of parenting during childhood. However, little is known about the unique longitudinal associations of mother and father engagement with adolescents’ externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors. This study uses Future of Families and Child Wellbeing Study data to examine the potential direct and indirect associations of parent engagement at age 9 on adolescent externalizing and internalizing behaviors at age 15. The analytic sample size is 1349, and at age 9, the mean age of children was 9.40 years (SD = 0.37). Forty-eight percent of children were female and 68% of them were from the married families. The results show that while controlling for mother engagement, higher father engagement at age 9 was directly associated with fewer adolescent internalizing behaviors, only among adolescent boys and in married families. In addition, among adolescent boys, father engagement had an indirect association with externalizing behaviors through father–child closeness. Mother engagement, however, is only found to have an indirect association with adolescents’ externalizing and internalizing behaviors through maternal hostility (while controlling for father engagement). The results for mother engagement held for boys and in married families only. The findings indicate that both mother and father engagement during childhood is important and helpful to prevent adolescent problem behaviors directly or indirectly via parent–child relationship.

Journal of Youth and Adolescence
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