Maternal Adolescent Parenting Behavior and Child Aggressive and Inattentive Behavior: Findings from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project
Guner, Bella Mironovna
Klein, Elisa L
Jones Harden, Brenda
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Adolescent parenting is associated with a wide variety of risk factors for both the mother (Berlin, Brady-Smith, & Brooks-Gunn, 2002) and child (Moore & Brooks-Gunn, 2002). Understanding the pathways leading toward poor parenting practices, and the subsequent influences on child aggressive and inattentive behavior may yield important information for intervention efforts on the part of adolescent families. The current study examines which maternal characteristics influence parenting behavior in a high risk sample of adolescent mothers and their toddlers, using Belsky's (1984) parenting process model. The purpose of the study was to: 1) examine whether maternal age, depression, or stress influenced positive and negative parenting behavior, 2) examine the influence of positive and negative parenting behavior on child aggressive and inattentive behavior, and 3) examine whether positive parenting would mediate the association between maternal characteristics and child aggressive and inattentive behavior. Data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation dataset was used to examine the aforementioned questions. The sample consisted of 319 mothers ages 15-19 and their toddlers ages 2-3 years. Heirarchical regression analyses revealed that maternal depression predicted higher levels of negative parenting behavior, younger adolescent mothers are more likely to engage in punitive parenting behavior than older adolescents, and maternal stress predicted lower levels of positive and higher levels of negative parenting behavior. Logistic regression analyses revealed that adolescent mothers who engaged in positive parenting behavior were less likely to have children who engaged in aggressive and inattentive behavior, and parents who engaged in negative parenting behavior were more likely to have children who engaged in aggressive and inattentive behavior. Mediational analyses revealed that positive parenting behavior mediated the association between maternal stress and child aggressive and inattentive behavior. These findings suggest that maternal characteristics are an important factor to consider in parenting behavior, and that despite the difficulties faced by adolescent mothers, there is room for positive parenting, which may mitigate the influence of maternal stress. The findings from this study indicate that intervention efforts may benefit from focusing on teaching adolescent mothers how to engage in positive parenting behaviors with their toddlers, thereby reducing the risk for future child aggressive and inattentive behaviors.