Pubertal Timing and Mexican-Origin Girls’ Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms: The Influence of Harsh Parenting

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Early-maturing girls are at risk for internalizing and externalizing problems. Research concerning pubertal timing and mental health among Mexican Americans or the influence of parenting behaviors on these relations has been scarce. This study addressed these gaps. This was a prospective examination of 362 Mexican-origin girls and their mothers in 3 waves of data. Measures included girls’ self-report of pubertal development and girls’ and mothers’ report of maternal harsh parenting and daughters’ mental health. Using structural equation modeling, we examined whether pubertal timing in 5th grade predicted girls’ internalizing and externalizing outcomes in 10th grade. We also examined the mediating and moderating effects of harsh parenting on the relations between pubertal timing and internalizing and externalizing behaviors, as well as the influence of mothers’ and daughters’ nativity on these relations. Results differed depending on reporter and maternal nativity. Using daughters’ report, we found that Mexican American mothers’ harsh parenting acted as a moderator. At high levels of harsh parenting, early pubertal timing predicted higher externalizing scores, while at low levels of harsh parenting, early timing predicted lower externalizing scores. For Mexican immigrant mothers, harsh parenting mediated the effects of pubertal timing on girls’ internalizing and externalizing problems. There were no significant pubertal effects for mothers’ report. Findings suggest that maternal harsh parenting plays a key role in the relations between early pubertal timing and behavioral and emotional outcomes among Mexican-origin girls.

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