Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Influence of Child Behavioral Problems and Parenting Stress on Parent–Child Conflict among Low-Income Families: The Moderating Role of Maternal Nativity

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Influence of Child Behavioral Problems and Parenting Stress on Parent–Child Conflict among Low-Income Families: The Moderating Role of Maternal Nativity

Article excerpt

The parent-child (P-C) relationship, the earliest and certainly one of the most important relationships that individuals develop, is considered to be a major predictor of outcomes in many child developmental domains (Driscoll & Pianta, 2011; Sengsavang & Krettenauer, 2015). Previous studies have purported that a nurturing, sensitive, and responsive P-C relationship in early childhood positively influences the child's emotional well-being (Dawson & Ashman, 2000), moral development (Sengsavang & Krettenauer, 2015), and later academic achievement (López Turley, Desmond, & Bruch, 2010), and reduces the likelihood of problematic behaviors (Fox, Dunlap, Hemmeter, Joseph, & Strain, 2003). Conversely, a conflicted P-C relationship in early childhood is associated with aggression and delinquency in early years (Ingoldsby et al., 2006) and later with poor behavioral and academic outcomes (Knitzer, 2000).

Although it is known that a complex interaction of different factors shapes the nature and quality of parenting (Frabutt, 1999), less evidence is available regarding the specific factors and processes that relate to P-C conflict in early childhood. Additionally, the bulk of research about P-C conflict does not capture the diversity of the population because it has predominantly focused on white, middle-class, parent-adolescent samples (Weaver, Shaw, Crossan, Dishion, & Wilson, 2014). This is particularly problematic given the continuing shifts in the U.S. demographics. The U.S. Census Bureau currently estimates that there is one international migrant coming to the United States every 32 seconds (http://www.census.gov/). To address these gaps, the present study focused on P-C relationships during early childhood, specifically the potential relating factors to P-C conflict, and included mothers from low-income communities with different racial backgrounds. This is particularly timely given the shifting racial demographic of the U.S. population.

In investigating the relating factors to P-C conflict, this research drew on two general frameworks used in parenting studies: Belsky's (1984) determinants of parenting and Sameroff and Chandler's (1975) transactional model of development. Belsky's ecological model of parenting determinants emphasizes the importance of the parent's own psychological disposition, the child characteristics, and the contextual sources of stress when examining what contributes to particular parenting behaviors. Because Belsky's framework is limited to how child characteristics predict parenting, this study also draws upon the transactional model of development to acknowledge the bidirectional influence between parent and child. This model also emphasizes that both parent and child are embedded in an active environment that also influences the dyad. Aside from these two frameworks being widely used in studies on parenting and child development, we chose these frameworks to guide our research because their elements correspond to the variables we are interested to examine. With this, the current research simultaneously examined two potential contributing factors to P-C conflict-parenting stress and child behavioral problems. Parenting stress refers to a condition where the perceived parenting demands exceed the actual resources necessary to parent effectively (Deater-Deckard, Chen, & El Mallah, 2013). It constitutes the caregiver's personal characteristics that directly influence parenting. Examining child behavioral problems as a contributing factor to P-C conflict, on the other hand, highlights the children's evocative role (Caspi, 2000; Scarr, 1992) where their own characteristics elicit responses from their parents.

As described previously, this study included samples with different racial backgrounds. Thus, we also referred to Super and Harkness's (1986) developmental niche framework, a widely used lens in examining the role of culture in shaping a child's development, working through three interacting subsystems (i. …

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