Mother–Adolescent Conflict as a Mediator Between Adolescent Problem Behaviors and Maternal Psychological Control

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Abstract

This study examined mother–adolescent conflict as a mediator of longitudinal reciprocal relations between adolescent aggression and depressive symptoms and maternal psychological control. Motivated by family systems theory and the transactions that occur between individual and dyadic levels of the family system, we examined the connections among these variables during a developmental period when children and parents experience significant psychosocial changes. Three years of self-report data were collected from 168 mother–adolescent dyads, beginning when the adolescents (55.4% girls) were in 6th grade. Models were tested using longitudinal path analysis. Results indicated that the connection between adolescent aggression (and depressive symptoms) and maternal psychological control was best characterized as adolescent-driven, indirect, and mediated by mother–adolescent conflict; there were no indications of parent-driven indirect effects. That is, prior adolescent aggression and depressive symptoms were associated with increased conflict. In turn, conflict was associated with increased psychological control. Within our mediation models, reciprocal direct effects between both problem behaviors and conflict and between conflict and psychological control were also found. Additionally, exploratory analyses regarding the role of adolescent gender as a moderator of variable relations were conducted. These analyses revealed no gender-related patterns of moderation, whether moderated mediation or specific path tests for moderation were considered. This study corroborates prior research finding support for child effects on parenting behaviors during early adolescence.

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