Maternal and paternal contributions to child internalizing and externalizing problems : an actor-partner interdependence framework
Murdock, Kyle Wayne
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Prior studies evaluating associations between parent and child characteristics have focused largely on mother-child, but not father-child, dyadic relationships. Theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that research including fathers is needed because knowledge about how maternal, paternal, and child characteristics may be interrelated is lacking and there is theoretical work suggesting that paternal behavior may be more sensitive to interpersonal factors than maternal behavior. These gaps in the literature were addressed in the present study through evaluation of hybrid actor-partner interdependence models in which maternal, paternal, and child characteristics were included. Specifically, maternal and paternal harsh/negative behavior were evaluated as mediators of associations between maternal and paternal negative affect and child outcomes (i.e., internalizing problems and externalizing problems). Furthermore, maternal and paternal harsh/negative behavior were evaluated as mediators of associations between maternal and paternal relationship satisfaction and child outcomes. The final sample included 103 families characterized by a mother, father, and their 8- to 12-year-old child. Results indicated that maternal and paternal harsh/negative parenting behavior partially mediated the association between maternal negative affect and child internalizing problems. Maternal harsh/negative behavior also partially mediated the association between maternal negative affect and child externalizing problems. Lastly, paternal harsh/negative behavior partially mediated the association between maternal relationship satisfaction and child internalizing problems. These results do not provide support for the hypothesis that paternal behavior is more sensitive to interpersonal factors than maternal behavior. Rather, results indicate that both maternal and paternal behaviors may be susceptible to interpersonal factors. Such results highlight the importance of theoretical and empirical work incorporating characteristics of mothers, fathers, and children in family psychology research. Moreover, results highlight the importance of targeting maternal negative affect in clinical intervention given its direct and indirect associations with internalizing and externalizing problems in children.