The Interaction between Child Behavioral Inhibition and Parenting Behaviors across Development: Effects on Adolescent Psychopathology

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Virginia Tech

Psychopathology is highly prevalent during childhood and adolescence and contributes to a variety of negative outcomes. Attempts to identify etiological factors which contribute to the development of psychopathology in youth have considered the Goodness of Fit between children's temperaments and the behaviors exhibited by their parents (Chess and Thomas, 1999; Zuckerman, 1999). Many studies have demonstrated that the interaction of children's behavioral inhibition and certain parenting behaviors influences children's psychological outcomes. However, the ability to draw firm conclusions from these studies is severely limited by methodological weaknesses.

In the current study, data were analyzed from 253 youth (46% male) who completed assessments at 2-years (N=167), 3-years (N=144), 4-years (N=134), 6-years (N=110), and 9-years of age (N=192), and during adolescence (N=78; mean age=14.08 years). Measures of child behavioral inhibition, maternal warmth and control, and child psychopathology were gathered at each time point. Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses were conducted to explore the moderating effect of maternal warmth and control on the relationship between child shyness and child/adolescent internalizing and externalizing symptoms.

With a few exceptions, child shyness significantly predicted child internalizing symptoms at each time point, while maternal warmth and control, and their interaction with child shyness, did not predict child internalizing or externalizing outcomes. Longitudinally, the slope of shyness across childhood significantly predicted adolescent internalizing symptoms. The moderating effect of maternal parenting on this relationship could not be explored due to sample size and missing data restrictions. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that the interaction between child shyness (at each time point) and maternal warmth and control did not predict adolescent psychopathology. Cross-lagged structural equation models analyzed the longitudinal, bidirectional relationships between child shyness and maternal warmth and control. However, youth shyness and maternal warmth/control were not correlated at any time point, youth shyness did not predict future displays of maternal warmth/control, and maternal warmth/control did not impact future levels of youth shyness.

Compared to previous studies, the current study's design and methodology had many strengths. However, the findings were largely inconsistent with hypotheses and previous work. Possible explanations for these findings, study limitations, and directions for future research are summarized.

behavioral inhibition, parenting, childhood, psychopathology