Background: Research has shown strong links between parenting and child psychopathology. The moderating role of child gender is of particular interest, due to gender differences in socialization history and in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders. Currently there is little agreement on how gender moderates the relationship between parenting and child psychopathology. This study attempts to address this lack of consensus by drawing upon two theories (self-salience vs. gender stereotyped misbehaviour) to determine how child gender moderates the role of parenting, if at all.
Methods: Using generalized estimating equations (GEE) associations between three parenting dimensions (hostile-ineffective parenting, parental consistency, and positive interaction) were examined in relationship to child externalizing (physical aggression, indirect aggression, and hyperactivity-inattention) and internalizing (emotional disorder-anxiety) dimensions of psychopathology. A sample 4 and 5 year olds from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) were selected for analysis and followed over 6 years (N = 1214). Two models with main effects (Model 1) and main effects plus interactions (Model 2) were tested.
Results: No child gender-by-parenting interactions were observed for child physical aggression and indirect aggression. The association between hostile-ineffective parenting and child hyperactivity was stronger for girls, though this effect did not reach conventional levels of statistical significance (p = .059). The associations between parenting and child emotional disorder did vary as a function of gender, where influences of parental consistency and positive interaction were stronger for boys.
Discussion: Despite the presence of a few significant interaction effects, hypotheses were not supported for either theory (i.e. self-salience or gender stereotyped misbehaviour). We believe that the inconsistencies in the literature regarding child gender-by-parenting interactions is due to the reliance on gender as an indicator of a different variable which is intended to explain the interactions. This may be problematic because there is likely within-gender and between-sample variability in such constructs. Future research should consider measuring and modelling variables that are assumed to explain such interactions when conducting gender-by-parenting research.