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J Fam Psychol. 2018 Mar;32(2):229-239. doi: 10.1037/fam0000358.

Child internalizing problems and mother-child discrepancies in maternal rejection: Evidence for bidirectional associations.

Author information

Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences, University of Houston.
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Department of Psychology, University of Houston.
Department of Psychology, PACE University.
Department of Psychology, Arizona State University.


We investigated the bidirectional associations between mother-child discrepancies in their perceptions of maternal rejection and children's internalizing problems over 10 years from pre/early adolescence to early adulthood. Mothers' reports of rejection and involvement in the parent-child relationship, the children's perception of the mother's rejection, and children's self-report of internalizing problems were collected from a sample of 360 low-income ethnically diverse urban mother-child dyads at three time points (T1, T2, and T3) with 5-year intervals. Children were on average 12.6 years old at T1 (54% girls). Using a series of nested path analyses, we found that mother-child discrepancies while reporting maternal rejection at T1 were predictive of lower ratings of maternal involvement at T2 (β = -.14), which predicted higher levels of internalizing problems at T3 (β = -.16). The presence of mother's affective disorder was related to T1 mother-child discrepancies (β = .14). Regarding bidirectional associations, children's internalizing problems predicted maternal involvement across all time points, whereas T2 maternal involvement predicted T3 child internalizing problems. Discrepancies showed small associations with child internalizing problems both concurrently and over time. The findings highlight the importance of early discrepancies in the perception of maternal rejection for child internalizing symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record.

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