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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2002 Feb;70(1):96-110.

Observed and perceived parental overprotection in relation to psychosocial adjustment in preadolescents with a physical disability: the mediational role of behavioral autonomy.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Loyola University of Chicago, Illinois 60626, USA.


The purpose of this study was to tes a mediational model of associations between parental overprotectiveness (OP), behavioral autonomy. and psychosocial adjustment in 68 families with 8- and 9-year-old preadolescents with spipa bifida and a demographically matched sample of 68 families with able-bodied children. Measures included questionnaire and observational assessments of parental OP; parent and child reports of behavioral autonomy; and parent, child, and teacher reports of preadolescent adjustment. On the basis of both questionnaire and observational measures of OP, mothers and fathers of children with spina bifida were significantly more overprotective than their counterparts in the able-bodied sample, although this group difference was partially mediated by children's cognitive ability. Across samples, mothers were more likely to be overprotective than fathers. Both questionnaire and observational measures of parental OP were associated with lower levels of preadolescent decision-making autonomy as well as with parents being less willing to grant autonomy to their offspring in the future. For the questionnaire measure of OP, and only for the spina bifida sample. the mediational model was supported such that parental OP was associated with less behavioral autonomy, which was, in turn, associated with more externalizing problems. Findings are discussed in relation to the literature on parenting, autonomy development, and pediatric psychology.

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