Interparental Agreement, Parent-Child Responsiveness, and Children's Peer Competence*
This study examined associations between interparental agreement, parent-child responsiveness, and children's social competence with peers. Assessments of interparental agreement among 33 parenting dyads were based on (a) parental agreement on beliefs about the use of control in childrearing, and (b) parental similarity in the use of initiations during play with child. Parent-child responsiveness was assessed by subjective ratings of parent-child play interaction. Teachers and peers provided assessments of children's social competence. Associations were found between parental agreement in beliefs about control and parental similarity in the use of control with child. Parental agreement on beliefs about the use of control and parental similarity in the use of control were both positively associated with children's social competence. Parent-child responsiveness also was positively associated with children's social competence. Associations between agreement measures and children's social competence were partially mediated by parent-child responsiveness. Implications for research and practice are discussed.
The quality of children's peer relationships has been identified as an important hallmark of children's current and later social adjustment (e.g., Parker & Asher, 1987). Evidence points to a variety of positive developmental outcomes that are associated with peer acceptance (Ladd, 1990), whereas negative outcomes are linked to rejection by peers (DeRosier, Kupersmidt, & Patterson, 1994). Such patterns of association have been found as early as the toddler and the preschool years (Ladd & Price, 1987). Recognition of the importance of peer relationships to children's social functioning has led researchers to question the origins of children's social status among peers. Given the fact that children's earliest social interaction occurs within the family, researchers have turned their attention to examining possible links between patterns of interaction within children's family of origin and children's peer relationships. Although the influence of siblings on children's behavior cannot be denied (Dunn, Slomkowski, & Beardsall, 1994), parent-child interaction has been identified as a major contributor to children's social behavior with peers (Hart, DeWolf, Wozniak, & Burts, 1992; Putallaz, 1987).
The extensive body of literature highlighting linkages between children's relationships with parents and their relationships with peers points to the importance of family interactions for children's relationships outside the family. What is missing from this body of research, however, is a family systems perspective. According to family systems theory, family functioning is constructed through the patterns of behavior displayed between members of particular family subsystems and through interactions between family subsystems, so the family as a whole is greater than the sum of its constituent subsystems (von Bertalanffy, 1968; Minuchin, 1985). Thus, to understand linkages between the family and children's relationships with peers, it is important to consider the interdependent nature of individual family members who form subsystems within the family. To date, however, the majority of studies examining links between the family and children's peer relationships have focused on the contribution of individual parenting behavior or on the separate contributions of both mother and father. Less attention has been given to how maternal and paternal childrearing practices combine to influence children's social competence (Gable, Crnic, & Belsky, 1994; Russell & Russell, 1994). The present study represents an effort to extend the literature on linkages between the family and children's peer relationships by examining possible associations between processes of interparental agreement and children's social competence. …