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Parent-child relationships in context: an application of the person-process-context-time model to the development of low-income toddlers' social-emotional adjustment




Albrecht, Erin Christine, author
MacPhee, David, advisor
Lunkenheimer, Erika, advisor
Riggs, Nathaniel, committee member
Khetani, Mary, committee member

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This dual manuscript dissertation addresses current empirical evidence and developmental theory that acknowledges the active role of the toddler in shaping ontogeny. As such, both studies utilized cross-lagged panel models to investigate the longitudinal, bidirectional associations among different features of the microsystem and the child, using repeated measures data from the Early Head Start and Evaluation Research Project (EHSREP; 1996-2010). In the first study, transactional relations between observed maternal supportiveness and child emotion regulation at age 14-, 24-, and 36-months were evaluated. Results supported extant research that establishes significant longitudinal associations between more supportive mother behavior and higher levels of child emotion regulation, net the stability in these constructs over time; there was no evidence to support child-driven pathways, or a developmental transaction. This model was then assessed with the addition of the total home environment measure across time points. Both child emotion regulation and the home environment significantly predicted each other from child age 2 to 3, while maternal supportiveness remained a significant predictor of emotion regulation, but only at age 2. These results suggest that different facets of the child’s microsystem may become more salient at different times in development, and the child emerges as an influence on the microsystem in his or her own right. Findings also underscore the need for research that compares the predictive utility of parent-child interaction measures and the home environment for diverse developmental outcomes. The second study incorporated toddlers’ negative emotionality into a cross-lagged panel model of maternal depressive symptoms, maternal supportiveness, and child externalizing behaviors. A central goal of this study was to incorporate process-oriented questions about the linkage between individual differences in child temperament, maternal risk, parenting, and child externalizing behaviors (mediation), while also addressing questions about for whom these pathways are most relevant (moderation). Maternal depressive symptoms predicted subsequent child behavior problems; in turn, child behavior problems predicted later depressive symptoms. Child negative emotionality at 14 months demonstrated an indirect effect on maternal depressive symptoms at 3 years by way of externalizing behavior at 2 years. Nonsignificant tests of moderation rendered the current study unable to generate support for diathesis-stress or differential susceptibility models in the current sample. Results imply the emergence of parent-driven transactions between maternal depressive symptoms and child externalizing behaviors within the first few years of life. Moreover, the temperamental characteristic of negative emotionality connotes further risk for maladjustment for both mother and child. Collectively, both studies highlight the need for continued research and interventions that consider the child’s contributions to the dynamic process of development during toddlerhood.


2016 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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