Parenting and infant difficulty: testing a mutual exacerbation hypothesis to predict early onset conduct problems

Child Dev. Nov-Dec 2011;82(6):2006-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01652.x. Epub 2011 Oct 25.


The prediction of conduct problems (CPs) from infant difficulty and parenting measured in the first 6 months of life was studied in a sample of 267 high-risk mother-child dyads. Stable, cross-situational CPs at school entry (5-6 years) were predicted by negative infancy parenting, mediated by mutually angry and hostile mother-toddler interactions at 24-42 months. Mother-child interactions late in toddlerhood were especially relevant for CPs. Contrary to predictions, difficult child behavior in the first 6 months of life was not consistently associated with CPs, either independently or in interaction with negative infancy parenting. The findings most strongly highlight the role of negative mothering in early infancy, and of changes in mother-toddler interaction, in early onset CPs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anger
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Prenatal Care / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult