A longitudinal study of rejecting and autonomy-restrictive parenting, rejection sensitivity, and socioemotional symptoms in early adolescents.


Rejection sensitivity (RS) has been defined as the tendency to readily perceive and overreact to interpersonal rejection. The primary aim of this study was to test key propositions of RS theory, namely that rejecting experiences in relationships with parents are antecedents of early adolescents’ future RS and symptomatology. We also expanded this to consider autonomy-restrictive parenting, given the importance of autonomy in early adolescence. Participants were 601 early adolescents (age 9 to 13 years old, 51 % boys) from three schools in Australia. Students completed questionnaires at school about parent and peer relationships, RS, loneliness, social anxiety, and depression at two times with a 14-month lag between assessments. Parents also reported on adolescents’ difficulties at Time 1 (T1). It was anticipated that more experience of parental rejection, coercion, and psychological control would be associated with adolescents’ escalating RS and symptoms over time, even after accounting for peer victimisation, and that RS would mediate associations between parenting and symptoms. Structural equation modelling supported these hypotheses. Parent coercion was associated with adolescents’ increasing symptoms of social anxiety and RS over time, and parent psychological control was associated with increasing depressive symptoms over time. Indirect effects via RS were also found, with parent rejection and psychological control linked to higher T1 RS, which was then associated with increasing loneliness and RS. Lastly, in a separate model, peer victimisation and RS, but not parenting practices, were positively associated with concurrent parent reports of adolescents’ difficulties.