Although substantial research supports the association between parental inconsistent discipline and early adolescent behaviors, less is understood on mechanisms underlying this relation. This study examined the mediating influence of delinquent-oriented attitudes in early adolescence. Using a longitudinal sample of 324 rural adolescents and their parents, findings revealed that inconsistent discipline in sixth grade predicted an increase in adolescent delinquent-oriented attitudes by seventh grade which, in turn, predicted both an increase in early adolescent antisocial behaviors and a decrease in socially competent behaviors by eighth grade. Therefore, it appears that accepting attitudes toward delinquency may in part develop from experiencing inconsistent discipline at home and may offer a possible explanation as to why early adolescents later engage in more antisocial and less socially competent behaviors. Findings may inform family-based preventive intervention programs that seek to decrease behavior problems and promote social competence in early adolescents.
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