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Prediction of externalizing behavior problems from early to middle childhood: The role of parental socialization and emotion expression

  • SUSANNE A. DENHAM (a1), ELIZABETH WORKMAN (a1), PAMELA M. COLE (a2), CAROL WEISSBROD (a3), KIMBERLY T. KENDZIORA (a4) and CAROLYN ZAHN–WAXLER (a4)...

Abstract

Parental emotions and behaviors that contribute to continuity and change in preschool children's externalizing problems were examined. Mothers and fathers were observed interacting with their children, and child-rearing styles were reported. Teachers, mothers, and children reported children's antisocial, oppositional behavior. Externalizing problems showed strong continuity 2 and 4 years later. Proactive parenting (i.e., supportive presence, clear instruction, and limit setting) predicted fewer behavior problems over time, after controlling for initial problems; the converse was true for parental anger. In contrast, the hypothesized ameliorative contribution of parents' positive emotion was not found. Parental contributions were most influential for children whose initial problems were in the clinical range. In particular, parental anger predicted continuation of problems over time. Paternal, as well as maternal, influences were identified. Examination of parental emotions and inclusion of fathers is important to research and intervention with young antisocial children.

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Corresponding author

Dr. Susanne Denham, Department of Psychology, Mailstop 3F5, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax VA 22030–4444, sdenham@osf1.gmu.edu, or to Dr. Carolyn Zahn–Waxler, Section on Developmental Psychopathology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bldg. 15-K, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.

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