Trouble in the Second Year: Three Questions about Family Interaction

Jay Belsky, Sharon Woodworth, Keith Crnic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


3 questions regarding family interaction in the second year of life are addressed in this report on 69 families rearing firstborn sons. Question 1 concerns the identification, via cluster analysis, of families having difficulty managing their child, using codings of narrative records of family interaction when children were 15 and 21 months of age. Parents in families identified as "troubled" at each age tried to control their toddlers most often, were least likely to rely upon control-plus-guidance management strategies, had children who defied them most frequently, and experienced the greatest escalation of negative affect in these control encounters. Families identified as "troubled" at both 15 and 21 months had children who received the highest "externalizing" problem scores at 18 months and mothers who experienced the most daily hassles during the second year. Question 2 concerns the antecedents of "trouble in the second year." Discriminant function analyses indicated that membership in the groups of families that appeared troubled at both ages of measurement (n = 15), at only one age (n = 28), or never (n = 26) could be reliably predicted (hit rate = 71%) using a set of 9 measurements of parent personality, child emotionality/temperament, marital quality, work-family relations, and social support, suggested by Belsky's model of the determinants of parenting, and social class. Question 3 concerns the proposition that extensive nonmaternal care in the first year is a risk factor for troubled family functioning in the second year. As hypothesized, prediction analysis showed that families at moderate and high contextual risk (based on 10 antecedent variables pertaining to Question 2) were significantly more likely to experience trouble in the second year when children experienced 20 or more hours per week of nonmaternal care in their first year, and these results could not be attributed to "selection effects".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-578
Number of pages23
JournalChild development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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