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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2018 Apr;46(3):437-447. doi: 10.1007/s10802-017-0309-2.

Disentangling Child-Specific and Family-Wide Processes Underlying Negative Mother-Child Transactions.

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University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M5S 1V6, Canada.
Laval University, 2320 rue des Bibliothèques, Québec, Québec, G1V 0A6, Canada.
University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.
University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.
University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M5S 1V6, Canada.


The current study examines the transactional processes between maternal negativity and child disruptive behavior during early childhood, using a sibling comparison design. This design allows for a more sophisticated test of the behavioral training hypothesis than is possible when only one child per family is included in the analysis as it excludes two confounders (passive gene-environment correlation and family-wide environmental influence). Three hundred and ninety-seven families were visited on three occasions when the target child was 1.5, 3 and 4.5 years old (920 children, 51.5% female). The target child and up to three older siblings per family were included in data collection and analysis. Mothers and fathers reported on children's disruptive behavior and mothers reported on their negativity to children. Within-family cross-lag pathways, as well as a significant indirect effect through which children increased their own disruptive behavior via maternal negativity confirmed a behavioral training effect. Family level maternal negativity and sibling disruptive behavior showed high levels of stability over three to four years and no context effect for maternal negativity or sibling disruptive behavior was seen. The theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.


Disruptive behavior; Early childhood; Maternal negativity; Sibling comparison model; Transactional process


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