Maternal Romantic Relationship Quality, Parenting Stress and Child Outcomes:  A Mediational Model
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Maternal Romantic Relationship Quality, Parenting Stress and Child Outcomes: A Mediational Model Christine R. Keeports, Nicole J. Holmberg, & Laura D. Pittman Northern Illinois University. Introduction. Longitudinal Mediation Analyses. Preliminary Analyses.

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Maternal Romantic Relationship Quality, Parenting Stress and Child Outcomes: A Mediational Model Christine R. Keeports, Nicole J. Holmberg, & Laura D. PittmanNorthern Illinois University

Introduction

Longitudinal Mediation Analyses

Preliminary Analyses

  • Family systems theory (e.g., Minuchin, 1974) suggests that family adult relationships influence children’s functioning. As a result, many researchers have examined the influence of stress on the lives of parents and its influence on children.

  • Fosco, et al. (2007) found that children experience increased externalizing problems when mothers’ romantic relationships are less positive.

  • Similarly, Willford, et al. (2007) found that higher levels of parenting stress have commonly been associated with more externalizing problems in children.

  • Miech, et al. (1999) found that these patterns may be especially pronounced in families living in poverty, where greater stress is often reported.

  • Given these patterns, this study explores whether the link between mother-partner relationship quality and children’s externalizing problems is mediated by parenting stress particularly within low income populations.

T1 Parenting Stress

.02

.07

-.18**

-.18**

T1 Mother-Partner Relationship Quality

T2 Child

Outcomes

-.10+  -.10+

-.15**  -.14**

Methods

T1 Parenting Satisfaction

.05

-.04

.17**

.17**

  • Participants & Procedures

  • We used data from the first two waves of Welfare, Children and Families: A Three-City Study, a random sample of 2,402 poor and near-poor families living in low-income, urban neighborhoods.

  • Analyses focus on families with preschool-aged children (ages 2-5 years) who participated at both time points and whose mother was in a romantic relationship at Time 1 (n = 324, 54% boys, 46% girls).

  • The sample is primarily African American (45%) and Hispanic American (46%; remaining 9% being Caucasian or other ethnicities).

  • Maternal romantic relationships consisted of 23.8% married couples and 76.2% unmarried relationships. This sample is unique because it includes both mothers who are married and those who are not married to their romantic partner.

  • Maternal caregivers reported on their family background, quality of their romantic relationship, parenting stress and satisfaction, and children’s problem behaviors during in-home interviews approximately 16 months apart (84% retention rate).

  • Measures

  • The Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Scale was used to asses the quality of the mothers’ romantic relationship, including nonmarital relationships (α = .86; Locke & Wallace, 1959)

  • Parenting stress and satisfaction were assessed using items from the New Hope Study (MDRC, 1994) and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (Survey Research Center, 1997; α = .75 and .69, respectively).

  • Mothers reported on their children’s internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors at Time 1 and 2 using the Child Behavior Checklist (αranged from .81 - .87; Achenbach, 1991).

T1 Mother-Partner Relationship Quality

T2 Child

Outcomes

-.10+  -.11*

-.15**  -.14**

Cross-sectional Mediation Analyses

Values reported in blue represent internalizing behaviors.

Values reported in red represent externalizing behaviors.

+ p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

Parenting Stress

-.25***

-.25***

.35***

.40***

Discussion

Mother-Partner Relationship Quality

Child Outcomes

  • Cross-sectionally, parenting stress fully mediates the link between maternal romantic relationship quality and child internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

  • Parenting satisfaction partially mediates the link between maternal romantic relationship quality and child internalizing and externalizing behaviors in the cross-sectional data.

  • Parenting stress and satisfaction do not act as mediators over time. While parenting stress and satisfaction may be influential in the moment, these do not appear to have lasting influences on children’s functioning.

  • Longitudinally, maternal-partner relationship quality is still associated with child internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

  • These findings suggest the importance of considering the quality of maternal romantic relationships beyond marriage among low-income families, as it impacts children’s functioning over time.

  • However, this study is limited in generalizability because the sample represents a specifically low-income, urban population. Additionally, the sample consists primarily of minorities and all data is exclusively mother-report.

  • Another limitation is that about 1/3 of the maternal relationships from Time 1 had ended or changed by Time 2. These relational transitions may change the meaning of the findings for this subset of the sample. Further analyses will examine differences based on type of maternal romantic relationship.

-.16**  -.07

-.18**  -.08

Parenting Satisfaction

-.12*

-.11*

.19**

.19**

Mother-Partner

Relationship Quality

Child Outcomes

-.16**  -.13*

-.18**  -.16**

Analysis Plan

Values reported in blue represent internalizing behaviors.

Values reported in red represent externalizing behaviors.

* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001

  • After preliminary correlational analyses, regression analyses were run to explore both the direct and indirect relationships of mother-partner relationship quality on child outcomes, cross-sectionally and over time

  • A mediational model was examined through the technique outlined by Baron and Kenny (1986).

    • Step 1: Establish the link between mother-partner relationship quality and child internalizing and externalizing.

    • Step 2: Establish the link between mother-partner relationship quality and parenting stress/satisfaction.

    • Step 3: Establish the link between patenting stress/satisfaction and child internalizing and externalizing and reexamine the correlation between mother-partner relationship quality and child outcomes.

  • All analyses controlled for the child’s age and gender and the mothers’ marital status and ethnicity. Additionally, analyses predicting Time 2 child outcomes controlled for Time 1 child outcomes.

  • Cross sectional analyses supported a meditational model, where the significant negative association between mother-partner relationship quality and child outcomes was fully mediated by parenting stress and partially mediated by parenting satisfaction.

  • However, longitudinal analyses predicting child outcomes at Time 2 did not support a meditational model.

  • While the link between mother-partner relationship quality continued to be significantly associated over time with child outcomes, neither parenting stress nor parenting satisfaction were significant predictors over time.

Correspondence concerning this poster should be addressed to Christine Keeports at the Psychology Department, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115 or [email protected]


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