It takes more than one for parenting: How do maternal temperament and child’s problem behaviors relate to maternal parenting behavior?


The current study examined how individual differences in maternal temperament and child problem behaviors correlate with observed maternal positivity and negativity toward the child. The sample consisted of 153 mothers of 3-to-7year old children. Mothers reported their own temperament (surgency, orienting sensitivity, effortful control and negative affect) and their children’s problem behaviors. Maternal behavior was videotaped in a set of structured interaction tasks with the child during a lab visit. Results indicated that children’s problem behaviors were related to less maternal positivity and more negativity. In addition, observed maternal negativity was associated with less maternal effortful control and more negative affect. In contrast, maternal temperament was unrelated to observed maternal positivity toward the child. Furthermore, maternal temperament was related to mothers’ positivity and negativity but only for children high in problem behaviors. The findings implicate that child problem behaviors may interact with maternal temperament in explaining variance in caregiving positivity and negativity.