Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Links among Coparenting Quality, Parental Gentle Guidance, and Toddlers' Social Emotional Competencies: Testing Direct, Mediational, and Moderational Models

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Links among Coparenting Quality, Parental Gentle Guidance, and Toddlers' Social Emotional Competencies: Testing Direct, Mediational, and Moderational Models

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The present study examined three hypothesized models that describe associations among coparenting quality (as perceived by both parents), parents' gentle guidance, and toddlers' social emotional competencies: Ca) direct associations; (b) mediational associations (coparenting quality is associated with toddlers" social emotional competencies through individual parents' gentle guidance); and (c) moderational associations (coparenting quality moderates the relations between parents' gentle guidance and toddlers' social emotional competencies). Sixty-seven mostly middle-class, two-parent families with toddlers were observed in a laboratory setting. Parents completed a questionnaire describing their perceived coparenting quality and their children's social emotional competencies. As hypothesized, there was evidence for a mediational association of coparenting quality with toddlers' social emotional competencies through mothers' gentle guidance but not fathers' gentle guidance. The direct and moderational models of associations between coparenting quality and children's social emotional competencies were not supported by the data.

KEYWORDS: coparenting, parental control, parenting quality, parenting, family process, toddler, social emotional development, social competencies

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Recent research identifying influences on children's social emotional development, other than individual parenting behaviors, have turned to a family systems perspective that highlights the contributions of family processes (Cowan, 1997). In particular, coparenting quality has received increasing attention in recent years as a unique subsystem within the family that influences both individual parenting and children's development (McHale, Kuersten-Hogan, Lauretti, & Rasmussen, 2000). Coparenting quality is typically defined as the quality of coordination between adults who play parenting roles (McHale et al., 2000) and an extension of the marital relationship (McHale, 1995). According to family systems theory (Minuchin, 1985), the coparenting subsystem is particularly salient because it includes both parents, who together provide a foundational ground for patterns of family interaction that are likely to influence their own parenting and children's development (Margolin, Gordis, & John, 2001).

Despite emerging interests in coparenting quality and the potential importance of its influence on parenting and children's development, exactly how coparenting quality is associated with children's social emotional development has not been clear. Recently, given the conceptualization of coparenting quality as one aspect of the marital relationship (McHale, 1995) and its similarity to marital relationships (Margolin et al., 2001), some researchers have attempted to investigate associations among coparenting, parenting, and children's social emotional development using a marital relationship--child outcome model (e.g., Schoppe, Mangelsdorf, & Frosch, 2001). Such models have been used in research to test associations between marital relationship quality and children's social emotional development, operating through: (a) direct associations, whereby witnessing marital conflict is associated with elevated levels of distress and emotional arousal in children (Cummings & Davies, 1994; Emery, Fincham, & Cummings, 1992); and (b) mediational associations (or spillover influence) whereby marital conflict affects children through other aspects of child and family functioning (Cummings & Davies, 1994; Erel & Burman, 1995; Kaczynski, Lindahl, Malik, & Laurenceau, 2006; Kitzmann, 2000; Lindsey, Caldera, & Tankersley, 2009; Roosa, Wolchik, & Sandier, 1997). Additionally, other models test the moderational influences of marital quality in associations between parenting and children's social emotional development (Frosch & Mangelsdorf, 2001; Roosa et al., 1997) or the moderation of parent-child secure attachment and parents' negative emotional reciprocity in associations between marital conflict and children's social behaviors (Lindsey et al. …

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