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Child Dev. 2000 Mar-Apr;71(2):358-75.

Early maternal and child influences on children's later independent cognitive and social functioning.

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University of Texas Health Science Center, Department of Pediatrics, Houston 77225, USA.


The present study examined whether parenting and child characteristics of 2- and 3 1/2-year-old children had common paths of influence on their 4 1/2-year independent cognitive and social functioning. Structural equation modeling was guided by hypotheses that assumed children's later independence is facilitated by specialized parental support in early social interactions. To address the importance of variability in early development for understanding children's later independence, we included 104 term and 185 preterm children, as they are known to differ in early skills. As predicted, mothers' maintaining of children's interests indirectly supported 4 1/2-year cognitive and social independence through a direct, positive influence on 2- and 3 1/2-year skills. Directiveness positively supported children's early cognitive and responsiveness skills but by 3 1/2 years, high levels of this behavior had a direct, negative influence on their cognitive and social independence at 4 1/2 years. Whereas high levels of maintaining interests across these ages support later independence, directiveness needs to decrease in relation to children's increasing competencies. Results support a theoretical framework that emphasizes the importance of the social context for understanding the origins of children's later independent functioning.

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