Temperamental Vulnerability and Negative Parenting as Interacting Predictors of Child Adjustment

Article excerpt

This study examines parenting by temperament interactions in predicting child adjustment. Participants included 40 first and second graders, their mothers, and teachers. Child report of maternal psychological control and hostility was assessed using the Child Puppet Interview. Mothers completed temperament scales from the Child Behavior Questionnaire, and teachers provided information on child adjustment. As expected, among children high in irritable distress, maternal psychological control was associated with internal

izing problems and maternal hostility was associated with externalizing problems. Among children with poor effortful control, maternal hostility was associated with externalizing behavior. This study offers evidence that the effects of negative parenting are accentuated among children with temperamental vulnerabilities.

Key Words: child adjustment, child report, parenting, temperament.

For more than 3 decades, social scientists have focused on parenting as a crucial factor in understanding the development of behavioral and emotional problems among children. In recent years, however, the centrality of parenting in understanding child development has been challenged by behavior geneticists and others who point to the importance of genetic factors and nonshared environment in accounting for children's adjustment (Rowe, 1994). Observed effect sizes in research on parental influence on child development are typically small to moderate, and much of the variance in child adjustment remains to be explained after parenting has been taken into consideration (Bates, Pettit, Dodge, & Ridge, 1998; Rothbaum & Weisz, 1994).

We propose that these small effect sizes result from the fact that parenting does not affect all children in the same way or to the same degree. Different children elicit different parenting from the same parents, and it is also possible that different children may experience the same parenting in different ways. For example, hostile and coercive parenting may have a more deleterious impact on children who are temperamentally vulnerable to negative contextual influences. In contrast, hostility may exert a lesser influence on children whose dispositions leave them more resilient in the face of negative parent-child interchanges. The challenge for researchers, then, is to identify those factors that render some children more influenced by parenting than others and to include these factors in more complex interactive models of parenting and child psychopathology (Collins, Maccoby, Steinberg, Hetherington, & Bornstein, 2000).

NEGATIVE PARENTING: HOSTILITY AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTROL

"Negative parenting" has been implicated consistently in the development of emotional and behavioral problems in children. Research suggests that there are at least two important components of negative parenting: hostility and psychological control (Morris et al., in press). Hostility is defined as overt verbal and physical aggression toward the child. In contrast, psychological control is covert aggression and intrusive control in which parents attempt to manipulate children's behavior and identity through the use coercive strategies such as excessive criticism, contingent affection, guilt induction, restrictive communication, and invalidation of feelings (Barber, 2001). Although these two components of parenting sometimes occur in tandem, and are often aggregated in research on parenting (e.g., Campbell, March, Pierce, Ewing, & Szumowski, 1991), research suggests these constructs are distinct and have differential effects on children's adjustment (Barber).

Studies examining how children are affected by various aspects of parental hostility, such as harsh discipline, punitiveness, coercion, and physical and verbal aggression, have consistently linked parental hostility to the development of behavior problems and aggression in young children and preadolescents (e. …