Interactions Between Maternal Parenting and Children’s Early Disruptive Behavior: Bidirectional Associations across the Transition from Preschool to School Entry

  • Lindsey A. Combs-Ronto
  • Sheryl L. Olson
  • Erika S. Lunkenheimer
  • Arnold J. Sameroff


This study was a prospective 2-year longitudinal investigation of associations between negative maternal parenting and disruptive child behavior across the preschool to school transition. Our main goals were to 1) determine the direction of association between early maternal negativity and child disruptive behaviors across this important developmental transition and 2) examine whether there would be different patterns of associations for boys and girls. Participants were 235 children (111 girls; T1; M = 37.7 months, T2; M = 63.4 months) and their mothers and teachers. Observational and multi-informant ratings of child disruptive behavior showed differential patterns of stability and associations with measures of parenting risk. Results indicated bidirectional and interactive contributions of externalizing behavior and negative parenting across time. Results also indicated that risk mechanisms operate similarly for both sexes. Findings support transactional models of disruptive child behavior that highlight the joint contributions of parents and children.


Disruptive behavior Gender differences Parent-child relationship Reciprocal associations 



This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (RO1MH57489) to Sheryl Olson and Arnold Sameroff. We thank the children, parents, and teachers who generously shared their time with us, and many others who gave invaluable assistance with study administration, data management, and coding: Hyein Chang, Annelie Ott, Gail Benninghoff, Meribeth Pezda, David Kerr, and Nestor Lopez-Duran.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey A. Combs-Ronto
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sheryl L. Olson
    • 1
  • Erika S. Lunkenheimer
    • 2
    • 5
  • Arnold J. Sameroff
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Child and Family CenterUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.TIES for Families/Child & Adolescent PsychiatryHarbor-UCLA Medical CenterTorranceUSA
  5. 5.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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