The assumption that qualitative differences in adolescent mothers are associated with differences in child functioning was examined in a sample of 39 mother-infant dyads. Multiple measures of parental characteristics were used, including self-report measures of parenting expectations and mood orientation, and a qualitative behavioral measure of involvement. Analyses were conducted between these measures and observers' and mothers' judgments of the young children's social and emotional functioning. Trained observers rated the child's coping behavior and adolescent mothers rated their child on the Parenting Stress Index (PSI). Findings indicated that parenting expectations had a unique and differential power in explaining both objective child observation ratings and the mothers' PSI ratings of her child. In addition, interactions involving maternal positive behavior were related significantly to mothers' PSI ratings of the child's acceptability or reinforcement. Implications of the findings for early identification and intervention practices with at-risk young children and their families are discussed.