How do mothers' childrearing histories, stress and parenting affect children's behavioural outcomes?

M. A. Assel, S. H. Landry, P. R. Swank, L. Steelman, C. Miller-Loncar, K. E. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Background. Information is needed to understand the role of low to moderate levels of mothers' emotional stress and child characteristics (i.e. prematurity) on parenting behaviours and their impact on children's behaviour that might be deemed 'challenging' but not 'disordered'. Methods. The direct and indirect relations of maternal childrearing history and emotional stress, and observed parenting practices when children were 3 years of age on 4-year child behavioural outcomes was examined in a sample of low-income families with a term (n = 112) or preterm (n = 180) child. Parenting practices included displays of warmth and restrictiveness when interacting with their children. Child outcomes at 4 years included observation of social initiations with their mothers and maternal report of social and attentional problems. Results. A Structural Equation Model building approach guided by specific hypotheses indicated that preterm as compared to full-term children had more maternal reported social and attentional problems but did not differ in observed social initiating skills. Greater negative maternal childrearing history indirectly influenced social initiating skills through its direct influence on maternal emotional stress. Greater maternal emotional stress directly influenced mothers' parenting that, in turn, directly influenced social initiating. Prematurity and a more negative childrearing history had a direct negative influence on the maternal report of social and attentional behavioural outcomes. Conclusions. These findings delineate the effects of prematurity and maternal parenting on the behaviour of 4-year-old-children and extend current knowledge of the influence of parental emotional stress on parenting. Even milder levels can negatively influence parenting,and in turn, contribute to children's less well developed social skills.The issues raised in this study could help with the identification and prioritization of medical and psychological services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-368
Number of pages10
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Behavioural outcomes
  • Maternal influences
  • Pre-school children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'How do mothers' childrearing histories, stress and parenting affect children's behavioural outcomes?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this