Marriage, Parenting, and the Emergence of Early Self-Regulation in the Family System

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Abstract

The early years of toddlerhood mark the emergence of self-regulation and the child's ability to comply with parental requests. The current study examined young children's compliance and noncompliance in a family context by observing mothers, fathers, and two children in a family clean-up paradigm. Marital conflict and mutual responsiveness in the parent-child relationship were used as predictors of children's early self-regulation in an effort to explore risk and protective factors within the family. Several interactions between mother and father behavior as well as between marital conflict and parenting revealed how father-infant attachment moderates the effects of mother-infant attachment on children's compliance and how a close father-child relationship can protect children from the risks associated with high levels of marital conflict. Results indicate that future research on children's early self-regulation needs to be more systemic and move beyond the traditional mother-child dyadic context.

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