Maternal anxiety, parenting stress, and preschoolers' behavior problems: The role of child self-regulation
Tsotsi, S., Broekman, B. F. P., Sim, L. W., Shek, L. P., Tan, K. H., Chong, Y. S., Qiu, A., Chen, H. Y., Meaney, M. J., & Rifkin-Graboi, A. (2019). Maternal anxiety, parenting stress, and preschoolers' behavior problems: The role of child self-regulation. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 40(9), 696-705. https://doi.org/10.1097/dbp.0000000000000737
Objective: Maternal anxiety is a well-known risk factor for early childhood behavior problems. In this study we explore (1) whether parenting stress mediates this relation, and also (2) whether child factors, namely self-regulation, modify the influence of maternal well-being on child externalizing and internalizing problems at 4 years of age. Method: Mothers taking part in the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) cohort completed the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory when their children were 24 months of age. At 42 months children performed a self-regulation task (n=391) and mothers completed the Parenting Stress Index (PSI). When children were 48 months, both parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist. Results: As predicted, parenting stress mediated the relation between maternal trait anxiety and child externalizing and internalizing problems. This mediating effect was further moderated by child self-regulation. The indirect effect of maternal trait anxiety through parenting stress on child externalizing problems was stronger among children with low self-regulation. Conclusion: Parenting stress is an additional pathway connecting maternal trait anxiety and children’s externalizing and internalizing behavior problems. The risk for child externalizing problems conveyed by elevated maternal trait anxiety and parenting stress may be buffered by better self-regulation in four-year-olds. These results suggest that interventions that include decreasing parenting stress and enhancing child self-regulation may be important to limiting the transgenerational impact of maternal trait anxiety.
This is the final draft, after peer-review, of a manuscript published in Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The published version is available online at https://doi.org/10.1097/dbp.0000000000000737