Parenting, young children's behavioral self-regulation and the quality of their peer relationships

Ank Ringoot*, Pauline Jansen, Rianne Kok, Marinus van IJzendoorn, Marina Verlinden, Frank Verhulst, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Henning Tiemeier

*Corresponding author for this work

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The quality of young children's peer relationships is important for their development, and it is assumed that parenting and self-regulation skills shape children's behavior when interacting with peers. In this multi-informant-multi-method study, we examined the direct and mediated associations between preschool parenting, children's behavioral self-regulation, and peer aggression and peer relationship problems in elementary school-aged children and extended previous work by examining both positive and negative parenting of both mothers and fathers. In a large community sample (n = 698) of parents and children who were between 1 and 6 years old, we obtained information on observed maternal sensitivity, mother- and father-reported harsh discipline, observed child self-regulation, and child-reported aggression towards peers, peer rejection and victimization. Results from a structural equation model showed that maternal sensitivity was prospectively associated with children's behavioral self-regulation and that lower levels of behavioral self-regulation were associated with higher levels of children's peer aggression and peer relationship problems. However, children's behavioral self-regulation did not mediate the association between maternal sensitivity and peer relationship problems. In addition, higher levels of paternal, but not maternal, harsh discipline were directly associated with more peer relationship problems, but again no mediation was found. The results highlight the importance of maternal sensitivity for children's behavioral self-regulation and the role of paternal harsh discipline for the quality of children's later peer relationships. Our findings suggest it is important to take maternal and paternal parenting practices into account as they might have different effects on the child.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-732
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Development
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of all children and parents, general practitioners, hospitals, midwives and pharmacies involved in the Generation R Study. The Generation R Study is conducted by the Erasmus Medical Centre (Rotterdam) in close collaboration with the School of Law and Faculty of Social Sciences of the Erasmus University Rotterdam; the Municipal Health Service Rotterdam area, Rotterdam; the Rotterdam Homecare Foundation, Rotterdam; and the Stichting Trombosedienst & Artsenlaboratorium Rijnmond, Rotterdam. The first phase of the Generation R Study was made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam; the Erasmus University Rotterdam; and The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Social Development published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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