Bornstein, Putnick, Hendricks, Racz, and Suwalsky
The Early Years: Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
Adolescent and Adult Mothers Talk to their New Babies
Sequential analysis can be used to describe patterns of behavior in real time and help to explain behavior by assessing contingency. It is the analysis of temporal patterns in sequentially recorded events or behaviors of individuals or groups and offers a dynamic approach to the study of behaviors engendered by social interactions. We used sequential analysis to explore the concept of temporal contingency of maternal and infant vocalizations and to compare adolescent and adult mothers. When their infants were 5 months old, adolescent mothers and adult mothers were videotaped for 3000 s in naturalistic observation at home. Mutually exclusive and exhaustive behavioral codes to evaluate several domains of mother infant interaction, focusing on vocalization, were coded online as timed sequential data, wherein the time unit was 0.1 s. As far as base rates of vocalizations were concerned, adolescent mothers spoke less to their infants, and male infants vocalized nondistress more than female infants. Results of analysis of variance showed that, in general, mothers and infants vocalized contingently in response to each other's vocalizations. For female infants, adult mothers vocalized more contingently than adolescent mothers. However, contingency of infant nondistress vocalization did not differ between adolescent and adult mothers. That is, when mothers vocalized, adolescent mothers were equally likely to evoke contingent infant nondistress vocalization as were adult mothers. These results contribute to our understanding of adolescent parenting and show that introducing temporality into research questions of contingency yields greater insight into the dynamics of mother infant interaction.
Maternal Age in Relation to Mothering Behavior
The role of maternal age across practically the full range feasible (13 – 47 years) was investigated in mothers of 5-month-olds and mothers of 20-month-olds. Few differences emerged in the way mothers behaved with their 5-month-old infants. Mothers of all ages were generally similar in their nurturing behaviors, encouragement of motor skills, social exchange, didactic interactions, and material provisions for their infants. As maternal age increased, however, so did mothers' frequency and duration of speech, and maternal sensitivity and structuring in interactions with her infant. Maternal age was also related to a number of perinatal history and social support variables. When there was a significant relation with maternal age, there was often a linear trend through the teens and 20s and the trend line then flattened in the 30s and 40s. In mothers of 20-month-olds, maternal age was generally related to more parenting satisfaction, less limit setting, more parenting knowledge, higher internal and external parenting attributions of failure, longer utterance and more vocabulary in speech to children, and more praise and expressions of physical affection. However, like the 5-month findings, differing patterns of relations were evident when the sample was split into 2 groups of under 28 years and 28 years or older (at birth). For younger mothers, relations between maternal age and beliefs and behaviors were generally larger than relations found in the full sample. For older mothers, maternal age was only associated with greater satisfaction and the use of more different words in speaking to their children.
Language Development in the Second Year of Life
The composition of young children's vocabularies in seven contrasting linguistic communities has been investigated. Mothers of more than 250 20-month-olds completed comparable vocabulary checklists for their children. In each language and for different vocabulary size groupings, children's vocabularies contained relatively greater proportions of nouns than other word classes. Each word class was consistently positively correlated with every other class in each language and for children with smaller and larger vocabularies. A follow-up study compared multiple characteristics of girls' and boys' vocabulary in six different linguistic communities - one urban and one rural setting in each of three countries. More than 250 mothers completed vocabulary checklists for their 20-month-old children. Individual variability was substantial within each linguistic community. Minimal cross-linguistic differences were found in children's vocabulary size; however, differences among languages in the composition of children's vocabularies appeared possibly related to cultural valuing of different categories of words. Ecological setting differences within cultures appeared in children's vocabulary size, even when the composition of children's vocabularies was examined: Children living in urban areas were reported by their mothers to say significantly more words than children living in rural areas. Girls had consistently larger vocabularies than boys.
We also explored vocabulary competence in more than 50 firstborn and secondborn sibling pairs when each child reached 2 years using multiple measures of maternal report, child speech, and experimenter assessment. Measures from each of the three sources were interrelated. Firstborns' vocabulary competence exceeded secondborns' only in maternal reports, not in child speech or in experimenter assessments. Firstborn girls outperformed boys on all vocabulary competence measures, and secondborn girls outperformed boys on most measures. Vocabulary competence was independent of the gender composition and, generally, of the age difference in sibling pairs. Vocabulary competence in firstborns and secondborns was only weakly related.
Mothers’ Perceptions of Themselves as Parents
In an empirical study, we used an ecological framework to examine the roles of multiple contributors to variation in key maternal perceptions of their own parenting. Maternal SES, employment, and parenting support, child gender, language, social competence, and temperament, and maternal intelligence, personality, and parenting knowledge and style were explored in separate predictions of self-perceived competence, satisfaction, investment, and role balance in over 230 European American mothers of firstborn 20-month olds. Hierarchical regression analysis indicated highly differentiated patterns of unique predictive relations to each domain of self-perceived parenting. Nonetheless, some predictors consistently contributed to individual parenting self-perceptions (most prominently parenting knowledge and dissonance between actual and ideal maternal and parental parenting styles). SES, maternal employment, community support, and maternal personality also contributed to self-perceptions, as did child temperament. Although the potential contributors to parenting self-perceptions may be many, prominent contributors to any one self-perception are few, and constellations of contributors differ for different parenting self-perceptions, conclusions that articulate with the modular view of parenting.
Knowledge of childrearing and child development is relevant to parenting and the well-being of children. In a sociodemographically heterogeneous sample of 268 European American mothers of 2-year-olds, we assessed the state of mothers’ parenting knowledge, compared parenting knowledge in groups of mothers who varied in terms of parenthood and social status, and identified principal sources of mothers’ parenting knowledge in terms of social factors, parenting supports, and formal classes. On the whole, European American mothers demonstrated a fair but less than complete basic parenting knowledge, and mothers’ age, education, and rated helpfulness of written materials each uniquely contributed to their knowledge. Adult mothers scored higher than adolescent mothers, and mothers improved in their knowledge of parenting from their first to their second child (and were stable across time). No differences were found between mothers of girls and boys, mothers who varied in employment status, or between birth and adoptive mothers. The implications of variation in parenting knowledge and its sources for parenting education and clinical interactions with parents are discussed.
Mothers of Siblings
In order to explore differences in the impact of parenting on sibling development, we undertook a multivariate within family study of maternal parenting beliefs and behaviors and sibling socioemotional behaviors with first- and secondborns. Mothers and their firstborns participated when their firstborn children were 20 months old, and the same mothers participated in the same study protocol with their secondborns when they were 20 months old. Despite children's development and structural changes in the family, most maternal beliefs did not change in their mean level (with the exception of parenting knowledge which increased), and maternal beliefs were consistently stable between children. Similarly, group mean levels of maternal social behaviors in interaction with their first and secondborn children did not change. However, contrary to maternal beliefs, the stability of maternal social behaviors across time was low. Whereas mothers may be consistent in the social domain of parenting, their children appeared to differ.
The Adoptive Family
The longitudinal study includes a group of families built by adoption. These adoptions represent optimal conditions for the placement of a child: children were very young when they joined their adoptive families, they were healthy, and the adoptive families were intact. We matched these families with other families from the longitudinal study who had given birth to their babies on the basis of important demographic variables, and examined mother-child interaction in the two groups at various ages throughout the early years. We found that there were few differences in the behavior patterns of infants, mothers, or mother-infant dyads at 5 and 20 months of age. Dyads in the two groups were comparable in the frequency and ranking of a full array of age-appropriate behaviors as well as in qualitative aspects of dyadic functioning. The few differences that did appear may reflect subtle differences in family dynamics for the two types of families, rather than deficits for either group. At age 4, we learned that both groups of children scored comparatively and in the adaptive range in terms of behavioral adjustment, level of adaptive functioning, intelligence, and self-concept. Both groups of mothers reported high parenting satisfaction and support. However, ratings of child, maternal, and dyadic behavior when mother and child were engaged in several tasks together were all lower for the adoptive dyads. These findings are discussed in relation to the unique issues surrounding adoption, including changes in the child’s understanding of what it means to be adopted, that become more salient for adoptive families as their children grow older and that may influence family dynamics. This line of research aims to add to the understanding of how adoptive families create homes that nurture the healthy development of children whose biological parents are unable to raise them.
Intelligence in the Preschool Years
An analysis of preschool children's multiple intelligences is underway in the CFRS. To date we have examined the structure and organization of intelligence, differences in intelligences across subpopulations, the relations between intelligences and sociodemographic variables, concurrent associations between intelligences and other behavioral, cognitive, and social factors, individual differences in patterns of intelligences, and the effect of schooling on intelligences. For example, first, a 7 factor hierarchical structural equation model was tested. The model consisted of 16 indicator variables that each loaded on one of 6 first order factors (Bodily Kinesthetic, Spatial, Logical Mathematical, Linguistic, Narrative, and Interpersonal Intelligences), and these 6 first order factors loaded on a second order General Intelligence factor. The hierarchical model fit the data alone and when controlling for socioeconomic status, maternal verbal intelligence, and maternal age. The model also fit well for boys and girls. Factor scores were saved, and group differences were explored by gender and on subsets of first and secondborn siblings and adopted and non adopted children. Girls scored higher than boys on General Intelligence, Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, and Narrative Intelligence. No differences emerged between first and secondborn children on the 7 intelligences, and only one difference emerged between adopted and non adopted groups, with non adopted children scoring higher on Interpersonal Intelligence. Maternal hours of employment were significantly negatively correlated with General Intelligence, Linguistic Intelligence, Logical Mathematical Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence, and Interpersonal Intelligence (stronger negative correlations for boys than girls). The Hollingshead Index (SES) was significantly positively correlated with General Intelligence, Linguistic Intelligence, Logical Mathematical Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence, and Interpersonal Intelligence. General Intelligence, Numerate/Spatial Intelligence, Linguistic Intelligence, and Interpersonal Intelligence were related to self-perceptions of cognitive competence. Creativity was related to General Intelligence, Numerate/Spatial Intelligence, Linguistic Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, and Narrative Intelligence, but more strongly for boys than for girls. Both internalizing and externalizing behavior were negatively correlated with General Intelligence, Linguistic Intelligence, Logical Mathematical Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence, and Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence. Children who scored high on any intelligence tended to score at average or slightly below average on all other intelligences. Children who showed a deficiency in one Intelligence tended to score average or slightly above average in the others. Children who attended preschool outscored their counterparts who did not attend preschool in General Intelligence as well as Linguistic and Interpersonal Intelligence. However, when we controlled for sociodemographic factors that also distinguished preschool attendees from non attendees, we found that these differences in intelligence attenuated.
The Middle Years: Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence
Self-Esteem, Appearance Satisfaction, and Dieting in Early Adolescence
Global self-esteem, appearance satisfaction, and self-reported dieting are interrelated. We examined the temporal ordering of global self-esteem and appearance satisfaction across the early adolescence transition, from age 10 to age 14, as well as the independent associations of self-esteem and appearance satisfaction on self-reported dieting at age 14. Participants were firstborn European American adolescents (40% girls). Adolescents who were less satisfied with their appearance at age 10 reported declines in self-esteem from age 10 to age 14. Adolescents with lower global self-esteem at age 10 did not decline in appearance satisfaction. Girls, adolescents with higher BMI scores at age 10, and adolescents who were less satisfied with their appearance at age 14 all reported more frequent dieting at age 14. Implications for etiological and intervention models of eating problems in adolescence are considered.
The Role of Peer Relationships in Adolescent Development
Most research exploring the interplay between context and adolescent separation and detachment has focused on the family; in contrast, this investigation directs its attention outside of the family to peers. Utilizing a latent variable approach for modeling interactions and incorporating reports of behavioral adjustment from 14-year-old adolescents and their mothers, we examined how separation and detachment relate to adolescent peer relationships, and whether peer relationships moderate how separation and detachment relate to adolescent internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Although positive peer relationships were associated with lower detachment, they also sharply attenuated relations between detachment and higher adolescent internalizing and externalizing. Separation from parents was unrelated to peer relationships, and regardless of whether peer relationships were positive, separation was not related to adolescent internalizing and externalizing. We integrate these findings with those from family-focused investigations and discuss their substantive and clinical implications.
Family Members’ Individual and Shared Perceptions of Family Functioning
Using the longitudinal study database, we examined how family members’ shared and unique perspectives of family dysfunction relate to dyad members’ shared views of dyad adjustment within adolescent-mother, adolescent-father, and mother-father dyads. Independent of a family’s family perspective (shared perspective of family dysfunction), the adolescent’s unique perspective was associated with lower security and higher conflict with both mother and father, the father’s unique perspective was associated with lower security and higher conflict with the adolescent as well as lower marital quality with mother, and the mother's unique perspective was associated with lower marital quality with the father. Moreover, for adolescent-parent dyads, compared to the parent unique perspective, the adolescent unique perspective was more strongly associated with dyad adjustment. These findings indicate that both shared and unique views of the family system – the adolescent’s unique view in particular - independently relate to the health of family subsystems. They also suggest that research as well as therapeutic interventions that focus on just the shared view of the family may miss important elements of family dysfunction.
Stress in Parents of Adolescents
Experiencing some degree of parenting stress is virtually unavoidable, particularly as children enter early adolescence and assert their independence. In this study, we examined how parenting stress attributed to the parent himself/herself, to the behavior of the child, or to parent-child dysfunctional interaction changed in mean level and relative standing across their child's transition to adolescence. We also compared mothers and fathers from the same families in terms of parenting stress and explored how one parent's stress affected the other parent's stress. European American parents (111 mothers and 111 fathers) were assessed when their children were 10 and 14 years old. Parenting stress was highly stable from 10 to 14 years. Total parenting stress increased across time, and was attributable to stress due to increased parent-child dysfunctional interaction, not parental distress or stress due to child behavior. Mothers and fathers agreed moderately in their relative standing and in the average levels of parenting stress in the three different domains of parenting stress at each time point. Mothers' and fathers' stress across domains were sometimes related. CONCLUSIONS: Mothers' and fathers' increased parenting stress across their child's transition to adolescence seems to derive from parent-child interaction rather than qualities of the parent or the child per se. Finding ways to maintain parent-child communication and closeness may protect parents and families from increased stress during this vulnerable time.
Physically Developed and Exploratory Young Infants Contribute to Their Own Long-Term Academic Achievement
A developmental cascade defines a longitudinal relation where one psychological characteristic uniquely affects another psychological characteristic later in time separate from other intrapersonal and extrapersonal factors. Here, we report results of a large-scale (N = 374) normative prospective 14-year longitudinal multivariate multisource controlled study of a developmental cascade from infant motor-exploratory competence at 5 months through conceptually related and age-appropriate measures of psychometric intelligence at 4 and 10 years and academic achievement at 10 years to adolescent academic achievement at 14 years. This developmental cascade applied equally to girls and boys and was independent of children’s behavioral adjustment and social competence, mothers’ supportive caregiving, verbal intelligence, education, and parenting knowledge, and the material home environment. Infants who were more motorically mature and who explored more actively at 5 months of age achieved higher academic levels as 14-year-olds.
Developmental Pathways linking Different Domains of Child Functioning across Age
A 3-wave multivariate design and developmental cascade analysis were used to investigate pathways among adaptive functioning and externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems in a community sample of 134 children seen at 4, 10, and 14 years. Adaptive functioning in early adolescence was predicted by early childhood adaptive functioning and externalizing behavioral problems, with both effects mediated by late childhood adaptive functioning and internalizing behavioral problems; externalizing behavioral problems in early adolescence were predicted by early childhood internalizing behavioral problems with the effect mediated by late childhood externalizing behavioral problems. These developmental cascades were obtained independent of child intelligence. Strategically timed and targeted interventions designed to address young children's behavioral problems may return investment in terms of an enhanced epidemiology of adaptively functioning teens.