Negative Mothering Breeds Defiance Into School Years

April 06, 1999

Adolescent mothers who are depressed and anxious and use negative control tactics such as yelling, insulting, threatening, and spanking their children are likely to find those children continuing their defiant behaviors beyond their pre-school years and into school, researchers are learning.

Disruptive behaviors can be expected in toddlers and preschoolers, but about half of all preschoolers with high levels of disruptive, defiant behavior problems carry them over into their school years and beyond, where they become far more problematic.

To learn why some children continue on disruptive, oppositional "trajectories" and others do not, a team of child specialists headed by Susan J. Spieker, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, followed for two and a half years 183 high-risk preschool children born to adolescent mothers. They looked at many factors but focused particularly on depression and anxiety in the mothers and their use of negative control tactics.

Their research, reported in the March issue of Child Development, shows associations between anxiety and depression in adolescent mothers and their use of negative control tactics, and further links between those behaviors and disruptive defiance by their children.

"By the end of the preschool years most of the mother-child pairs with high negative control are probably involved in coercive power struggles," says Spieker. "The extent to which child behavior is 'driving' this process would not change this conclusion."

Children of more depressed or anxious mothers showed higher levels of disruptive behavior, the scientists found. Greater amounts of negative control corresponded with higher levels of behavior problems, with no reduction over time.

Even in this high-risk sample of children, the disruptive behavior problems on average declined gradually between ages 3.5 and six, as they have been found to do in all preschoolers. But children whose mothers reported frequent yelling, threatening, and spanking of their children during conflict did not see a decrease over time, as had been expected.

At age six the level of disruptive behavior reported by the mothers who used negative control was much higher than established norms, the children exceeding the clinical cutoff point set for average prevalence of disruptive behavior at more than twice the normal rate. Overall, boys exhibited higher disruptive behavior levels than girls.

The scientists found a weaker association between negative control and disruptive behavior problems for African American than for white mothers, perhaps because African American mothers employ more positive warmth and less irritability with their negative control tactics, the scientists theorize.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
-end-
Child Development is the bimonthly peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Research in Child Development. For information about the journal, please contact Jonathan J. Aiken, 734-998-7310.

Posted by the Center for the Advcancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For information about the Center, contact Petrina Chong pchong@cfah.org, 202-387-2829.



Center for Advancing Health

Related Behavior Problems Articles from Brightsurf:

Zika infection soon after birth leads to long-term brain and behavior problems
Yerkes NPRC researchers have shown Zika virus infection soon after birth leads to long-term brain and behavior problems.

How synaptic changes translate to behavior changes
Learning changes behavior by altering many connections between brain cells in a variety of ways all at the same time, according to a study of sea slugs recently published in JNeurosci.

AI to help monitor behavior
Algorithms based on artificial intelligence do better at supporting educational and clinical decision-making, according to a new study.

New flame retardants, old problems
New flame retardants escaping from our TVs, other electrical and electronic products, and children's car seats are just as toxic as the flame retardants they're intended to replace, according to a peer-reviewed study published today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Study: Children born to older parents tend to have fewer behavior problems
A new Dutch study considered the behavior problems of children born to older parents.

Witnessing uncivil behavior
When people witness poor customer service, a manager's intervention can help reduce hostility toward the company or brand, according to WSU research.

Does teen cannabis use lead to behavior problems -- or vice versa?
New research led by the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that cannabis use among teens doesn't appear to lead to greater conduct problems or greater affiliation with other teens who smoke cannabis.

My counterpart determines my behavior
Whether individuals grow up in a working-class environment or in an academic household, they take on behaviors that are typical for their class -- so goes the hypothesis.

The problem with solving problems
As demonstrated in a series of new studies, Harvard researchers show that as the prevalence of a problem is reduced, humans are naturally inclined to redefine the problem itself.

How does resolving cannabis problems differ from problems with alcohol or other drugs?
Individuals who report having resolved a problem with cannabis use appear to have done so at younger ages than those who resolved problems with alcohol or other drugs and were less likely to use any formal sources of assistance or support, report investigators from the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Read More: Behavior Problems News and Behavior Problems Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.