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Bidirectional Associations Between Externalizing Behavior Problems and Maladaptive Parenting Within Parent-Son Dyads Across Childhood

NCJ Number
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology Volume: 44 Issue: 7 Dated: October 2016 Pages: 1387-1398
Sytske Besemer; Rolf Loeber; Stephen P. Hinshaw; Dustin A. Pardini
Date Published
October 2016
12 pages
This article reports on the first study to use novel within-individual change (fixed effects) models to examine whether parents tend to increase their use of maladaptive parenting strategies following an increase in their son's externalizing problems, or vice versa.
Coercive parent-child interaction models posit that an escalating cycle of negative, bi-directional interchanges influence the development of boys' externalizing problems and caregivers' maladaptive parenting over time; however, longitudinal studies that have examined this hypothesis have been unable to rule out the possibility that between-individual factors account for bi-directional associations between child externalizing problems and maladaptive parenting. The current study used a longitudinal sample of boys (N = 503), who were repeatedly assessed eight times across 6-month intervals in childhood (in a range between 6 and 13 years). Bi-directional associations were examined using multiple facets of externalizing problems (i.e., interpersonal callousness, conduct and oppositional defiant problems, hyperactivity/impulsivity) and parenting behaviors (i.e., physical punishment, involvement, parent-child communication). Analyses failed to support the notion that when boys increase their typical level of problem behaviors, their parents show an increase in their typical level of maladaptive parenting across the subsequent 6-month period, and vice versa. Instead, across 6-month intervals, within parent-son dyads, changes in maladaptive parenting and child externalizing problems waxed and waned in concert. Fixed effects models to address the topic of bi-directional relations between parent and child behavior are severely underrepresented. The current study recommends that other researchers who have found significant bi-directional parent-child associations using rank-order change models re-examine their data to determine whether these findings hold when examining changes within parent-child dyads. (Publisher abstract modified)