The Dialectics of Parenting: Changes in the Interplay of Maternal Behaviors during Early and Middle Childhood

Robert Bradley, Masumi Iida, Amy Pennar, Margaret Tresch Owen, Deborah Lowe Vandell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Parent and child relationships continuously evolve, part of an ongoing dialectic that derives from developmental changes in both parent and child. The focus of this study is on changes in the strength of association among four types of parenting behaviors considered important for children’s development: supportive presence, respect for autonomy, stimulation, and hostility. Mother–child interaction was observed for 1229 parent–child dyads at 36 months, 54 months, 1st grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade using similar observational paradigms. The association between respect for autonomy and supportive presence was strong at age three and continued to be strong over time. The association between respect for autonomy and stimulation was modest but also showed little change from age three to 5th grade. Respect for autonomy was negatively associated with maternal hostility, but the relation was complex. It was stronger at 54 months than 36 months but then became weaker through time. Supportive presence showed a moderate relation with stimulation at age 3 but the association became weaker over time. Supportive presence showed an expected negative association with hostility, a relation that changed little over time. The relation between hostility and stimulation also became weaker over time. In effect, there appears to be a shifting pattern of relations between maternal behaviors during early and middle childhood, one that reflects an evolving dialectic in the mother–child relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3214-3225
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Hostility
  • Interpersonal dialectics
  • Parenting
  • Respect for autonomy
  • Stimulation
  • Supportive presence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'The Dialectics of Parenting: Changes in the Interplay of Maternal Behaviors during Early and Middle Childhood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this