Early parenting and the development of externalizing behavior problems: Longitudinal mediation through children’s executive function.


Path analysis was used to investigate the longitudinal associations among parenting and children’s executive function and externalizing behavior problems from 36 to 90 months of age in the Family Life Project (N = 1,115), a study of child development in the context of rural poverty. While controlling for stability in the constructs, semistructured observations of parenting prospectively predicted performance on a battery of executive function tasks and primary caregivers’ reports of externalizing behavior. Furthermore, the association between early parenting and later externalizing behavior was longitudinally mediated by executive function, providing support for a process model in which sensitive parenting promotes children’s self-regulation, which in turn reduces children’s externalizing behavior.