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Title: Transactional relationships between parental personality and child temperament in infancy and toddlerhood
Authors: Casalin, Sara
Issue Date: 21-Sep-2012
Abstract: Recent research highlights the influence of both parent and child features on the child’s development. While previous research in this area mainly focused on linear theoretical models, recently bidirectionality between parent and child has been emphasized. In addition, existing studies in this area suffer from important shortcomings, such as an overreliance on mother-reported temperament only. Recent studies investigating the mechanisms explaining these parent-child transactions demonstrate the influence of parental personality and parenting stress on the development of child temperament and on the quality of parent-child relationship. Yet, there is a dearth of research in this area. Hence, the aim of the present study is to address these limitations and integrate state-of-the-art theories and methods in the investigation of early developing temperament, parental personality and parenting. More specifically, a number of key assumptions in this area were examined from a transactional or dynamic interactionism perspective, using multi-informant (fathers, mothers) data from two one-year prospective longitudinal studies of parents and their biological child (from infancy to toddlerhood). In the first study (N = 121) we adopt a variable-centered approach (Chapters 2-5), whereas the second study focuses on a person-oriented perspective (N = 105) (Chapter 6). In Chapter 1 the main theoretical frameworks informing this study are outlined. These include Rothbart’s temperament theory which proposes three temperamental factors, namely Surgency/Extraversion, Negative Affectivity and Effortful Control, and Blatt’s two polarities model, in which both Self-criticism and Dependency are considered as central dimensions in normal and disrupted personality development. These theories are discussed within broader theoretical frameworks emphasizing the importance of transactional processes and relationship quality, i.e., emotional availability and goodness of fit between child and parent. Chapter 2 examines whether temperament can be assessed in the earliest developmental phases, i.e., in infancy and toddlerhood. Confirmatory Factor Analyses replicated the three factor structure of temperament that has been identified in older children and adults. Moreover, we found evidence for factorial invariance for mother and father report, as well as evidence for the stability of these factors from infancy to toddlerhood, but also considerable changes in temperament over this one-year interval. Chapter 3 and 4 focus on transactional relationships among parental self-criticism and dependency, parenting stress, and the development of child negative affectivity (Chapter 3) and effortful control (Chapter 4), respectively. Using a cross-lagged, Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) approach, in both chapters, support for a stress-generation model was found, i.e., relationships among parental personality and child temperament were in part explained by parenting stress. Moreover, we found a number of ‘parent-to-child’ effects, but, against expectations, failed to find ‘child-to-parent’ effects. Chapter 5 investigates another potential mechanism involved in transactional relationships among parental personality and child temperament that may interact with parenting stress, namely emotional availability. Results showed a direct negative effect of parental personality on emotional availability, which was fully mediated by parenting stress. Moreover, we found evidence for moderated mediation, i.e., child extravert and regulating temperamental features attenuated the strength of these relationships. In this study, we also found a reciprocal effect, i.e. higher levels of emotional availability in the dyad resulted in lower personality-related vulnerability in the parent. In Chapter 6, a person-oriented approach is adopted. We showed that the three temperamental prototypes that have been identified in older children and adults can in part be replicated in infancy and toddlerhood. Specifically, a resilient, high negativity and low reactivity temperament cluster were identified. These temperamental prototypes showed high continuity and low longitudinal stability and were in theoretically expected ways differentially related to child development. In Chapter 7, we provide a summary of findings, discuss limitations and clinical implications, and situate the main findings of this PhD study in the light of contemporary issues in both empirical research and clinical practice with regard to early development. Taken together, findings reported in this study highlight the importance of considering dynamic interactions between both parent and child characteristics in assessing development change in the earliest years of life.<w:latentstyles deflockedstate="false" defunhidewhenused="true"  <w:lsdexception="" locked="false" priority="0" semihidden="false"  
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Clinical Psychology

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