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Child Development, May/June 1999, Volume 70, Number 3, Pages 722741

P red i cti n g M o th ers B eli efs ab o u t P resch o o l-A g ed C h i ld ren s S o ci al B eh av i o r:

E v i d en ce fo r M atern al A tti tu d es M o d erati n g C h i ld E ffects

Paul D. Hastings and Kenneth H. Rubin

Maternal beliefs about childrens social behavior may be important contributors to socialization and develop-
ment, but little is known about how such beliefs form. Transactional models suggest that childrens characteris-
tics may inuence parents. At 2 years of age, the shy and aggressive behaviors of 65 toddlers (28 females) were
observed during interactions with an unfamiliar peer; as well, mothers described the extent to which they ad-
vocated protective and authoritarian childrearing attitudes. These variables were used to predict mothers emo-
tions, attributions, parenting goals, and socialization strategies in response to vignettes depicting aggressive
and withdrawn child behaviors 2 years later. Most child effects were moderated by maternal attitudes or gen-
der effects. Authoritarian mothers of aggressive toddlers were most likely to report high control and anger, to
blame their children for aggression, and to focus on obtaining compliance rather than teaching skills to their
children. Protective mothers reported that they would use warmth and involvement to comfort withdrawn
children, especially their daughters.


The contribution of socializing factors to the develop-
ment of childrens socially competent and incompe-
tent behavior with peers has been an active eld of re-
search for many years. As the primary social partners
of infants, toddlers, and many preschoolers, parents
may greatly inuence childrens extrafamilial social
behavior. Parenting practices of involvement, warmth,
and directiveness have been linked to variations in
childrens social competence (e.g., Booth, Rose-Krasnor,
McKinnon, & Rubin, 1994; McFadyen-Ketchum, Bates,
Dodge, & Pettit, 1996). Working from the assumption
that parents management of childrens behavior with
peers is guided by parents beliefs or ideas about is-
sues pertaining to social development, Mills and
Rubin (e.g., 1990, 1992) and others (e.g., Gretarsson &
Gelfand, 1988; Johnston & Patenaude, 1994) have ex-
amined parental beliefs about childrens social behav-
ior. For example, parental beliefs about preschoolers
aggressive and withdrawn behavior have been found
to covary with parenting behavior, and to differ for
parents of socially competent, shy, and aggressive
children (Rubin & Mills, 1990, 1992). As parenting be-
liefs become instantiated in parental behavior, they
may play a role in the development of childrens ag-
gressive and/or socially withdrawn behavior. How
parents come to form such beliefs, however, and
whether beliefs contribute to, or are the product of,
variations in childrens social skills, remains unclear.
In this investigation, we examined mother and tod-
dler characteristics that might contribute to maternal
beliefs about aggression and withdrawal in the pre-
school years.
Four aspects of maternal responses to aggression
and withdrawal were targeted. We assessed mothers
emotional reactions (Mills & Rubin, 1990), their attri-
butions or causal explanations for their childrens so-
cial behavior (Miller, 1995), the parenting goals or
outcomes they want to achieve when interacting with
their children (Dix, 1992), and mothers strategies for
dealing with young childrens undesirable social be-
haviors (Rubin & Mills, 1992). For each, we examined
mothers reactive beliefs, that is, the beliefs they re-
ported in response to their childrens unskilled or in-
appropriate interactions with peers. Three potential
predictors of these maternal beliefs were considered:
toddlers social behavior with peers (both aggressive-
ness and wariness), mothers preexisting childrearing
attitudes, and child gender. These predictive relations
are depicted graphically in Figure 1.

Building a Transactional Model of Maternal Beliefs

Mothers have been found to respond differentially
to childrens aggression and withdrawal. Aggression
has been found to elicit more anger and more forceful
interventions from parents than other kinds of child
transgressions (Grusec, Dix, & Mills, 1982), or maladap-
tive behavior (including social withdrawal, Mills &
Rubin, 1990). Conversely, mothers have reported be-
ing more puzzled by young childrens social with-
drawal, and have responded more often with nonco-
ercive and supportive actions, even implicitly accepting
their childrens social disengagement. Although these

1999 by the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
All rights reserved. 0009-3920/99/7003-0014
Hastings and Rubin 723

results might suggest that most mothers are less dis-
turbed by, or are more accepting of, withdrawn than
aggressive behavior, there are some surprising differ-
ences in the beliefs of mothers of extremely with-
drawn and aggressive young children (Rubin & Mills,
1990, 1992). Mothers of withdrawn children reported
more disappointment, embarrassment, and guilt in
response to socially incompetent behavior, and sug-
gested the use of more involved and directive strate-
gies, than did mothers of aggressive children. The
mothers of characteristically withdrawn children
seemed to feel particularly uncomfortable about, and
responsible for, correcting their childrens problem-
atic social behaviors. However, any direction of effect
remains uncertain: Do mothers notions about social
development contribute to their children becoming
withdrawn, or do their perspectives develop in re-
sponse to the experience of raising a shy and wary
child? Alternatively, might it be that the unique com-
bination of a dispositionally wary child with an anx-
iously controlling parent produces this pattern of pa-
rental beliefs?
A growing number of theorists have challenged
conventional, unidirectional models of parents so-
cialization effects upon children by suggesting that
parental beliefs and behaviors may be inuenced by
the characteristics of children (Bell & Chapman, 1986;
Lytton, 1990; Miller, 1995). Reciprocal effects on par-
ent and child behavior have been demonstrated in a
number of studies (e.g., Bugental, Blue, & Lewis, 1990;
Compas, Howell, Phares, Williams, & Ledoux, 1989;
Dumas & LaFreniere, 1993; Patterson, 1982); yet,
many of these investigations have been static and cor-
relational in design. Little longitudinal research has
been done on the relative contributions of parent and
child to the development of parents. The lack of lon-
gitudinal data has limited the extent to which re-
searchers have been able to conclude that childrens
characteristics are associated predictively with par-
ents development of different belief systems, both in-
dependently and in interaction with preexisting char-
acteristics of parents themselves.

Aggression and Maternal Attributions

Thus far, there has been more research on parents
beliefs about childrens aggressive and disruptive be-
haviors than their withdrawal and shyness, and attri-
bution theory has shaped most of these investigations
(Dix & Grusec, 1985; Miller, 1995). Research on reac-
tions to misbehavior suggests that parents are more
likely to use force in response to aggression than
other types of transgressions (Grusec et al., 1982).
Further, parents react more strongly and directively
when they believe a childs misbehavior is caused by
factors that the child can control, rather than by situ-
ational or external forces (Dix, Ruble, & Zambarano,
1990). Parents of aggressive children have been char-
acterized both as highly punitive and critical with
their children (Dishion, 1990; see Rubin, Stewart, &
Early Predictors of
Maternal Responses
Maternal Responses to
Vignettes Depicting
Preschooler Behavior
Parenting Goals
Parenting Goals
Sex of Child
Toddler Behaviors
Child-Rearing Attitudes
Figure 1 Expected relations between three kinds of predictors: toddlers social behaviors, sex, and mothers early child-rearing
attitudes; and two classes of outcomes: maternal beliefs in response to aggressive behavior, and to withdrawn behavior, in preschool-
aged children.
724 Child Development

Chen, 1995, for a review), and as more likely to at-
tribute their childrens misbehaviors to more disposi-
tional, intentional, and stable causes than parents of
nonproblem children (Baden & Howe, 1992; Barkley,
Anastopoulos, Guevremont, & Fletcher, 1992; Dix &
Lochman, 1990). These attributional differences become
more pronounced over time, and are greater for parents
of children with more versus less problematic behavior
and for parents of older versus younger disruptive chil-
dren ( Johnston & Patenaude, 1994; Mash & Johnston,
1983; Rubin & Mills, 1992). These data suggest that chil-
drens aggressive and disruptive behaviors may shape
their parents attributions for such behaviors.
Early aggression is a fairly stable individual char-
acteristic. From at least the toddler years on, children
tend to maintain their relative levels of aggressive be-
havior compared to their peers (Coie & Dodge, 1998;
Farrington, 1991). Not all toddlers who are highly ag-
gressive continue to show those behaviors over time,
of course, but a large proportion do; repeated experi-
ence with a childs aggressiveness may lead a parent
to form the belief that such behavior is dispositionally
caused and not likely to change. Thus, while most
parents may attribute preschool-aged childrens ag-
gression to transient and situational factors (Mills &
Rubin, 1990), those who have witnessed an early his-
tory of aggressiveness in their children may be less
likely to do so. Compared to parents of preschoolers
who were not aggressive as toddlers, then, parents of
children who appear temperamentally prone to aggres-
sive actions may make more attributions of disposition,
intention, and stability for their childrens actions.
These attributions, in turn, could promote parents au-
thoritarian reactions to their children, leading to a coer-
cive cycle of mutually exacerbating parent and child ag-
gressiveness (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992).

Social Withdrawal and Maternal Attributions

The longitudinal work of Rubin and Mills (1992;
Mills & Rubin, 1993) offers some insight into the attri-
butions that parents make for young childrens social
wariness. In general, there are similarities to the work
on attributions for aggression. Like aggression, inhib-
ited and withdrawn behavior is fairly stable in young
children (Kagan, Reznick, & Snidman, 1989; Rothbart
& Bates, 1998), both for extreme and moderate levels
of the behavior (Pedlow, Sanson, Prior, & Oberklaid,
1993; Reznick et al., 1986). This stability may have
contributed to Rubin and Mills nding that most
parents decreased the extent to which they attributed
social withdrawal to transient states and situational
factors as the age of their children increased. How-
ever, mothers of exceptionally withdrawn preschool-
aged children (who also were most likely to have
been wary as toddlers; Sanson, Pedlow, Cann, Prior,
& Oberklaid, 1996) were more likely to suggest that
some trait within their children was responsible for
socially wary behavior, and these trait attributions for
withdrawal were fairly stable as children progressed
from preschool to early elementary school age (Mills
& Rubin, 1992). Again it would appear that an aspect
of childrens earlier social characteristics may have
contributed to maternal beliefs.
Alternatively, it may be that some parents believe
that social wariness or aggression is intentional, dis-
positionally caused, and stable; further, these parents
may interact with their children in ways that promote
their childrens wary or aggressive behavior. Indeed,
there is an extensive literature associating authoritar-
ian or power assertive parenting with aggression in
children (for a recent review, see Coie & Dodge, 1998).
Such a parent-based model of consistency and stabil-
ity in parents beliefs and behavior accounting for
both childrens and parents own development ts
more closely within the rubric of traditional models
of socialization (Bell, 1968, 1979). In accord with this
perspective, contemporaneous associations between
authoritarian attitudes and negative attributions for
misbehavior have been found (Dix & Reinhold, 1991);
parental authoritarianism also may be predictive of
subsequent patterns of attributions about aggression.
Although less extensively studied, there are recent
indications that parenting practices reective of highly
protective childrearing attitudes may be associated
with shy and withdrawn behavior in children. Despite
being warm and affectionate, parents of very shy or
wary young children also appear to be directive and
domineering during interactions (e.g., Arcus & Kagan,
1995; Rubin, Hastings, Stewart, Chen, & Henderson,
1997), and they endorse protective values more strongly
than parents of less shy toddlers (Chen et al., 1998).
These parents appear to perceive greater vulnerabil-
ity in their children and to be anxious about the pos-
sibilities of their children being frightened or harmed;
therefore, they restrict their childrens activities in an
effort to shield them from real or imagined dangers.
Some researchers (e.g., Barber, 1996; Mills & Rubin,
1998) have noted this restriction may be manifested
through efforts of controlling children through psy-
chological means, such as criticizing, that inhibit chil-
dren from pursuing their own goals. These practices
may serve to engender increased social wariness in
children, as necessary opportunities to practice self-
regulation are denied. Simultaneously, keeping the
child from experiencing novel challenges decreases
the likelihood of the child displaying upset emotions,
which may reinforce the anxiously protective attitudes
Hastings and Rubin 725

and practices of the parents, and foster dispositional
and stable attributions for childrens withdrawal.

The Role of Gender

The possible effects of child gender on mothers be-
liefs about aggression and withdrawal also were con-
sidered. Mills and Rubin (1992) found that mothers of
boys attributed aggression to transient, age-related
factors to a greater extent than did mothers of girls;
attributions for social withdrawal did not vary by sex
of child. As well, there are logical reasons to predict
consistent sex differences in parents causal attribu-
tions for their childrens social behavior. There is a
plethora of research showing that, from at least the
toddler years forward, aggression is more typical of
boys (e.g., Rubin, Hastings, Chen, Stewart, & Mc-
Nichol, 1998; Sanson, Oberklaid, Pedlow, & Prior,
1991; Zahn-Waxler, 1993), more stable in boys (e.g.,
Serbin, Peters, McAffer, & Schwarzman, 1991), and
seen as less normative in girls (Condry & Ross, 1985).
Boys also are the targets of punishment more often
than are girls (Lytton & Romney, 1991). In contrast,
girls displays of anxiety and shyness may receive
positive and reinforcing parental responses (Keenan
& Shaw, 1997; Simpson & Stevenson-Hinde, 1985),
which does not appear to be the case for boys.
Aggression appears to be a masculine trait, and
thus logically should be attributed to more stable,
dispositional, and possibly intentional causes when
displayed by boys than by girls. That this is not clear
in existing literature may be the result of parents
demonstrating a positive attributional bias when
thinking about, and reporting on, their own children
(Gretarsson & Gelfand, 1988). It may be protective
for most parents to attribute their own sons aggres-
sion to external factors, rather than viewing it as en-
trenched or unchangeable. However, given cultural
beliefs about normative sex-typed behavior, and the
fact that boys aggression actually is more stable
than that of girls (Olweus, 1979), it is probable that,
when followed longitudinally, mothers would see
their sons aggression as a consistent individual char-
acteristic, and therefore would make more internal at-
tributions for sons aggression than for daughters.
The converse sex of child effect was expected to be
true for attributions for withdrawal, because inter-
nalizing problems such as shyness and anxiety are
seen as more feminine (Zahn-Waxler, 1993).

Parenting Goals

In contrast to attributions, goals have received lit-
tle empirical attention from parenting researchers,
despite the central role they hold in many theories of
the causes of parenting behavior (e.g., Dix, 1992;
Goodnow & Collins, 1990; LeVine, 1974; Rubin, Mills,
& Rose-Krasnor, 1989). Parenting goals are portrayed
as organizing cognitions, dening the outcome that a
parent hopes to achieve during an interaction with
a child, and thereby inuencing the behavior that a par-
ent is likely to use (Dix, 1992). Differences in parent-
ing goals have been associated with parallel differ-
ences in behavior (Kuczynski, 1984). Parents concerned
with controlling their childrens immediate behavior
have been found to be most power assertive in their
actions. Parents who want their children to internal-
ize personal values and social lessons report using
more discussion-based reasoning, whereas parents
who focus on the quality of the parent-child relation-
ship are most likely to be supportive, warm, and open
to compromise (Hastings & Grusec, 1998). Observa-
tions of mothers apparent concern for parent-centered
goals, such as attempts to control interactions by in-
terfering with or redirecting their childrens play be-
haviors, have been correlated with peer-directed ag-
gression in preschool-aged children (Rose-Krasnor,
Rubin, Booth, & Coplan, 1996). Given the interrela-
tions of parent-centered goals, maternal power asser-
tion, and childrens aggression, it is reasonable to pre-
dict that parent-centered goals of controlling childrens
behavior would share similar relations to childrens ag-
gression as do internal attributions and angry emo-
tions. Conversely, as relationship-centered goals are
associated with the kinds of warm and comforting di-
mensions of parenting that some research has associ-
ated with inhibited behavior (e.g., Chen et al., 1998;
Rubin et al., 1997), these goals may be more typical of
mothers who are protective or have children who
were withdrawn as toddlers.

Research Questions

From the literature extant, we examined the fol-
lowing hypotheses. Mothers self-reported emotions,
attributions, parenting goals, and socialization be-
haviors in response to preschool-aged childrens ag-
gressive and withdrawn behavior were posited to be
predictable from mother and child characteristics as-
sessed 2 years previously. With respect to responses
to aggression, mothers who had described them-
selves as having more authoritarian childrearing atti-
tudes were expected to respond to aggression with
more anger and related negative emotions, to attribute
aggression to factors within their child, to be con-
cerned primarily with achieving such parent-centered
goals as immediately terminating their childs aggres-
sion, and to use more power assertive and fewer
726 Child Development

reasoning-based techniques. When their children had
been highly aggressive as toddlers, mothers were ex-
pected to report less surprise or puzzlement at their
childs displays of aggression, and to view their childs
aggression as stable and internally caused. Finally,
girls aggression was expected to produce more neg-
ative emotions and parent-centered goals than was
boys aggression, although boys were expected to
have their aggression attributed to more internal fac-
tors and to receive more punitive behavioral re-
sponses. The interactive effects of these variables
were considered, to determine if they predicted ma-
ternal beliefs conjointly.
Mothers beliefs about social withdrawal were ex-
pected to be predicted by their earlier protective child-
rearing attitudes, their childs shy and wary behavior,
and their childs gender. Power assertive behaviors
were expected to be uncommon, but to the extent that
protective mothers used such techniques, they were
expected to reect means of psychological control. As
well, more protective mothers were expected to be
more comforting and directly involved with their
childs activities, to focus on empathic and relation-
ship goals that centered on their own interactions
with their child, and to report more anxious emo-
tions. Mothers of children who had been more wary
as toddlers were expected to be less surprised or puz-
zled by withdrawal, to see their childs withdrawal as
stable, and to use more techniques that would struc-
ture the childs environment and teach social skills,
such as modeling. Finally, the withdrawal of girls was
expected to elicit fewer reports of upset emotions,
more internal attributions, and more supportive be-
haviors. Again, the interactive effects of these vari-
ables were considered.
Finally, the concurrent relations between mothers
beliefs and their socialization behaviors were exam-
ined. Activity in this area of research has burgeoned
in the last two decades (Grusec, Rudy, & Martini,
1997), reecting researchers interest in understand-
ing cognitions as potential causes of parenting behav-
ior. Belief-based models of parenting behavior (e.g.,
Dix & Grusec, 1985; Rubin et al., 1989) incorporate
goals, attributions, and emotions as predictive vari-
ables that shape parents management of interactions
with their children. These factors are active when par-
ents are behaving deliberately and with forethought,
but also may contribute to how parents tend to react
spontaneously, and how they indirectly inuence chil-
drens social development by organizing peer activities
and opportunities for interactions (McGillicuddy-
De Lisi & Sigel, 1995). Recognizing some of the com-
mon underlying cognitions that are associated with
apparently disparate parenting behaviors may help
to clarify a level of consistency across domains of
parenting that is difcult to ascertain through behav-
ioral observation.
The literature reviewed thus far has identied sev-
eral relations between beliefs and behaviors, al-
though few of these studies have examined maternal
beliefs about childrens aggression and withdrawal
specically (Mills & Rubin, 1990, 1992). However, to
the extent that the beliefbehavior relations can be
generalized across contexts of child behavior, it was
deemed reasonable to expect the following ndings
to emerge within the current investigation. More power
assertive techniques were expected when mothers re-
ported concern for parent-centered goals, made more
attributions for undesirable child behavior to factors
within their child, and felt more anger and similar neg-
ative emotions. More reasoning, teaching, and struc-
turing behaviors were expected when mothers re-
ported parenting goals centered on socializing values
and appropriate behavior, attributed their childs be-
havior to factors external to the child, and felt fewer
negative emotions. More low power and accepting
behaviors were expected when mothers goals cen-
tered on empathic or mother-child relationship con-
cerns, and when more positive emotions were felt.


The participants for this investigation were drawn
from a larger sample that took part in a study of tod-
dler inhibition, aggression, and social competence
(see Chen et al., 1998; Rubin et al., 1997, 1998). Only
participants who provided complete data on the vari-
ables of interest for the current investigation were in-
cluded in the present analyses.
Drawing from birth announcements in local news-
papers, 108 two-parent families with a 2-year-old child
were recruited at Time 1 (75% participation rate), of
whom 104 completed both laboratory visits at that
period. Eighty-eight (85%) families returned for the
Time 2 assessments, 2 years later, and 74 of the mothers
in those families completed the measures of maternal
beliefs at that time. Of those 74 mothers, 65 also had
completed the Child Rearing Practices Report (CRPR,
or Block Q-sort; Block, 1981) at Time 1.
The responses of those 65 mothers were used for
the analyses in this report. They and their children (28
girls) rst were seen between 12 and 24 weeks after
the childs second birthday (


28.18 months,


1.26). Approximately 2 years later (child age,




1.20), mothers completed the beliefs
measures. All of the mothers were married or had
Hastings and Rubin 727

partners. On average, at the rst assessment period,
mothers were 31.28 years old (


4.21); the major-
ity (


47) had at least some college or university ed-
ucation. The mean socioeconomic status of families
was 46.81 (


10.15) on the Hollingshead index
(Hollingshead, 1965), and most mothers had com-
pleted some postsecondary education. The sample
was predominantly Caucasian (


The sample was examined for selective attrition in
two ways. Multiple


tests were used to compare the
88 families who continued with the investigation at
Time 2 with the 16 families who did not continue, and
to compare the 65 mothers for whom all data was
available with the 23 mothers who participated at
both time periods but did not provide complete infor-
mation. Groups were compared on Time 1 demo-
graphic (mothers education, family SES), tempera-
ment (fearfulness, anger proneness), behavior (wary,
aggressive), and childrearing orientation (authoritar-
ian, protective) variables. There were no signicant
comparisons (


values ranged from

1.30 to 1.41).
Thus, there is no reason to suspect that the sample for
the current analyses differed meaningfully from the
mothers who are not represented.


Time 1
Each toddler was observed in a laboratory play-
room interacting with a same-age, same-sex, unfamil-
iar peer for 1 hour. Two closed-circuit TV cameras con-
nected to a split-screen monitor were mounted on the
ceiling. There was a barrier of shelves that stretched
two thirds of the way across the room. On either side of
the barrier were a large and a small chair, and six sim-
ilar but not identical toys (e.g., a blue ball and a red
ball). Each mother-toddler dyad was brought to the
room separately, and mothers were seated in the large
chairs. Mothers were instructed to remain seated in
the large chairs but told that their children were free
to wander about the room. After 10 min, two research
assistants entered, moved the shelves to the side of
the room so that the mothers were in view of each
other, and lined the corresponding toys up in the cen-
ter of the room. Mothers were told to remain seated
for another ve min, and then were free to leave their
chairs. The free play continued for another 20 min.
This was followed by a 15 min snack period, and then
a 10 min clean-up period.
After the laboratory visit, the mothers took home a
package of questionnaires that included the CRPR
and the Toddler Behavior Assessment Questionnaire
(TBAQ; Goldsmith, 1988). The former was used to
assess mothers childrearing orientations toward au-
thoritarianism and protectiveness, and the latter was
used to assess mothers early perceptions of their chil-
dren as shy or prone to anger.
Time 2
At child age 4 years, mothers completed another
package of questionnaires at home and returned the
measures by mail. Included in this booklet were the
four hypothetical vignettes used by Mills and Rubin
(1990, 1992) in their work on parenting beliefs about
aggression and withdrawal. Two of these vignettes
depicted the focal child acting aggressively toward a
peer (e.g., pushing another child down to get a toy),
and two portrayed the focal child acting withdrawn
among peers (e.g., standing alone and not playing at
preschool). Each mother was asked to imagine that
her child was being described in each story, and to
think about how she would react to such behavior.
After each story, to the question How do you feel
when you see your child act this way several times in
a row? mothers rated on scales ranging from not at
all (1) to extremely (5) each of the following emo-
tional responses: angry, anxious, disappointed, dis-
gusted, embarrassed, hurt, guilty, pleased, puzzled,
and surprised. Following these were three scales
measuring mothers causal attributions, or reasons
for your child behaving this way: disposition, rated
from Completely due to my childs nature or person-
ality (1) to Completely due to the situation (5); sta-
bility, rated from Denitely a temporary stage (1) to
Denitely will act this way in the future (5); and in-
tention, rated from My child acted this way on pur-
pose (1) to My child denitely didnt do this on
purpose (5). Finally, mothers gave open-ended re-
sponses to: What, if anything, would you do about
your childs behavior? and What would you hope
to accomplish by handling it that way? What would
your goals be in this situation?


Toddler Temperament
The Social Fearfulness and the Anger Proneness
scales (

.80 and .85, respectively, in this sample)
of the TBAQ were used as measures of mothers per-
ceptions of their toddlers temperamental propensi-
ties toward shyness and aggression, respectively.
These measures were used as covariates, to control
for mothers earlier perceptions of child characteris-
tics in the prediction of their later beliefs about ag-
gression and withdrawal.
728 Child Development

Toddler aggressiveness.

Toddlers aggression toward
a peer was coded in the rst 35 min of the observed
interaction period, using the Toddler Interaction Initi-
ation Scale (Rubin et al., 1998). The index of toddler
aggressiveness was the number of times each child
initiated a conict. Conict initiations included three
behaviors that disrupted a peers activity: stopping
actions (e.g., telling the other child to end an activity),
agonistic behavior (e.g., threatening gestures), and
object acquisitions (e.g., trying to take a toy held by
the other toddler). Intercoder reliability was calcu-
lated across 14 toddlers. Coders agreed that an initia-
tion had occurred 95% of the time, and the

cient for type of initiation was 0.91.

Toddler social wariness.

Toddlers wary behavior in
the presence of a peer also was observed in the rst 35
min of the observed interaction period, using the Tod-
dler Play Observation Scale (Rubin et al., 1997). Time
sampling procedures were used to count the number
of 10-s intervals in which the child was engaged in
particular play forms (unoccupied, solitary play, on-
looking, parallel play, imitative play, conversation
with peer, rough-and-tumble play, interaction with
adults), showing affect, and being proximal to, or in
contact with, the playmate or mother. As well, event
sampling was used to assess the frequency of anxious
behaviors. Social wariness was derived from the ag-
gregate of three variables: unoccupied behavior (not
playing with the toys or actively watching the other
child), maintaining contact with mother, and fre-
quency of anxious behaviors (e.g., auto-manipula-
tives). These were normalized via


and aggregated to form the index of social wariness.
Reliability was calculated using

coefcients for the
time-sampled behaviors and percent agreement for
the frequency of anxious behaviors. Kappa coefcients
were .92 for type of play activity (including unoccu-
pied) and .99 for contact variables; percent agreement
for the frequency of anxious behaviors was 82%.
Mothers Authoritarianism and Protectiveness
Mothers authoritarian and protective orientations
toward childrearing were measured using the CRPR,
a set of 91 index cards each bearing a description of a
possible parenting practice or value. Mothers sorted
the cards into seven piles of 13 cards each, assigning
the statements in each pile a rating from These cards
are most undescriptive of me (1) to These cards are
most descriptive of me (7).


Scales measuring authoritarian
and authoritative childrearing attitudes were created,
using the same Q-Sort items used in the research by
Kochanska and colleagues (Kochanska, Kuczynski, &
Radke-Yarrow, 1989). The authoritarian items involved
mothers endorsement of the use of corporal punish-
ment, verbal prohibitions and reprimands, discourag-
ing expressivity, strict supervision, and the use of anx-
iety induction for control. The authoritative items
reected rational guidance, induction, encouraging
independence, and openly expressing affect. In this
sample of mothers, the two scales were correlated sig-
nicantly and negatively,





therefore, they were normalized via


and the authoritative scores were subtracted from the
authoritarian scores, creating a single index of mater-
nal authoritarianism.


The measure of mothers protective
child-rearing attitudes was based on one derived
from the CRPR by Chen and colleagues (Chen et al.,
1998), and used elsewhere (Mills, 1998). For the origi-
nal measure, items thought to characterize highly
protective parenting were identied independently
by Chen and the present authors, and mutually iden-
tied items were aggregated. Items were examined
with the current sample, and six were found to be
weakly, positively intercorrelated, with an

cient of .40. (The forced-ranking paradigm of the Q-
Sort methodology inherently contributes to low or
negative correlations among individual items [Chen,
personal communication], which may be one reason
that researchers have had difculty replicating Blocks
original factor structure [Holden, 1995].) This mea-
sure was weakly, positively correlated,






.10, with the observed index of warm and control-
ling, or oversolicitous, parenting previously found to
be associated with toddler inhibition (Rubin et al.,
1997). Due to the novelty of this measure, however,
we recommend that results involving its use be re-
garded as preliminary and in need of replication. The
six items comprising this measure reected mothers
concern about and/or restriction of toddlers activi-
ties, and included: I help my child when he/she is be-
ing teased by friends; I try to keep my child away
from children or families who have different ideas or
values from our own; I worry about the bad and sad
things that can happen to a child as he/she grows up;
I worry about the health of my child; I dont go out if
I have to leave my child with a stranger; and I encour-
age my child to be independent of me (reversed). The
average of the six items comprised the scores of ma-
ternal protectiveness.
Mothers Behaviors in Response to Aggression
and Withdrawal
Mills and Rubins (1990) coding scheme was used
to categorize mothers freely reported socialization
Hastings and Rubin 729

strategies. Mothers behavior was coded as

power asser-

(e.g., punishing, commanding),

psychologically con-

(e.g., threatening, disapproving),


(e.g., reasoning, modeling, suggesting alternatives),


(e.g., asking the child for information, comfort-
ing, joining the childs activity),

externally directed

monitoring, asking the teacher for information), or

no re-

(used when a mother indicated she would take
no action, but not when she omitted answering the
question). Each reported behavior of every mother was
coded into one of these ve categories. Intercoder reli-
ability for 14 mothers using the

coefcient was .83.
Mothers Parenting Goals in Response
to Aggression and Withdrawal
A four category coding scheme for parenting goals
was adapted from the work of Hastings and Grusec
(1998). Mothers freely reported goals were coded as


(stopping the childs behavior; attain-
ing compliance or obedience),


(teaching a
child important values, skills or lessons),



(helping a child to get along with others; teach-
ing interpersonal skills), or


the child feel happy or secure; focusing on the parent-
child relationship). Each category of parenting goal
was coded as present or absent within each mothers
response to a vignette (e.g., I wanted my child to feel
good and for her to enjoy herself was coded as a
single empathic/relational goal). The

coefcient for
coding mothers parenting goals was .78.


All analyses for this investigation were done using
the SPSS-X statistical package. The sample size for
most analyses was 65. However, one mother did not
report parenting goals for either aggression story; the
sample size was 64 for analyses of those variables. Ini-
tial analyses indicated that mothers ratings on the
scaled items and their reported parenting goals and
behaviors were correlated highly across the parallel
examples of child behavior. Therefore, mothers re-
sponses were averaged across the two aggression
vignettes and the two withdrawal vignettes. To re-
duce further the number of dependent variables for
analyses, separate factor analyses were performed on
mothers emotion ratings and attribution ratings.

Mothers Parental Beliefs about Aggression
and Withdrawal in the Preschool Years

Descriptive statistics on mothers beliefs about ag-
gression and withdrawal of 4-year-old children, and
the comparisons (via multiple


tests with adjusted

of mothers emotions, attributions, goals, and behav-
ior in response to aggression versus withdrawal are
presented in Table 1. Mothers averaged ratings of the
intention and disposition scales were reversed so that
higher scores reected greater endorsement of these
dimensions, as was the case with the stability scales.
Examination of the individual emotion ratings indi-
cated that mothers felt signicantly more angry, dis-
appointed, disgusted, embarrassed, and guilty, and
signicantly less pleased, in response to aggression
than to withdrawal. However, almost no mothers re-
ported feeling pleased in response to aggression or
disgusted in response to withdrawal; due to their lack
of variability, these two variables were dropped from
further analyses. No signicant differences emerged
in the attributions mothers made for withdrawn ver-
sus aggressive behavior. Mothers reported signi-
cantly more parent-centered and socialization goals
in response to childrens aggression, and signicantly
more empathic/relational goals in response to with-

Table 1 Mean Scores and


Tests for Mothers Parental Beliefs
about Withdrawal and Aggression at Child Age 4 Years











Stable 1.93 (.67) 2.18 (.87)

Dispositional 2.50 (.66) 2.69 (.99)

Intentional 3.13 (.80) 2.86 (1.02) 1.69
Parent-centered .04 (.19) .50 (.38)

Socialization .05 (.15) .23 (.31)

Social interaction .52 (.40) .55 (.36)

Empathic/relational .51 (.43) .11 (.24) 6.99**
Power assertive .02 (.14) .52 (.64)

controlling .00 (.00) .33 (.43)
Structuring .49 (.49) .89 (.53)

Supportive .71 (.52) .40 (.51) 3.83*
Externally-directed .19 (.29) .07 (.21) 3.38*
No response .13 (.27) .00 (.00)
Angry 1.10 (.27) 2.88 (.82)

Anxious 1.76 (.71) 2.08 (.79)

Disappointed 1.99 (.75) 3.05 (.82)

Disgusted 1.04 (.18) 1.75 (.88)

Embarrassed 1.21 (.39) 2.23 (.87)

Guilty 1.24 (.42) 1.52 (.62)

Hurt 1.45 (.74) 1.52 (.75)

Pleased 1.24 (.50) 1.02 (.09) 3.84*
Puzzled 2.66 (1.22) 2.60 (1.12) .37


2.69 (1.19)

3.02 (1.02)



.05; **


.01; ***


730 Child Development

drawal. In fact, only three mothers reported a parent-
centered goal in response to withdrawal; therefore,
this variable was dropped from further analyses. In
terms of maternal behavior, mothers reported that
they would use more power assertion and structuring
to deal with aggression, whereas for withdrawal they
reported more supportive and externally directed be-
haviors. Only two mothers reported they would use
any means of behavioral control to deal with their
childrens withdrawn behaviors, and none reported
the use of psychologically controlling means to deal
with withdrawal; as well, no mothers reported they
would make no response to aggression. Thus, these
three variables were dropped from further analyses.
The correlations between maternal beliefs and be-
haviors in response to withdrawal and in response to
aggression also were examined. There were no statis-
tically signicant correlations between correspond-
ing parenting goals. The only attribution signicantly
correlated across child behaviors was for stability,





.05, and the only signicant correla-
tion among the parenting behaviors was for externally
directed techniques,





.01. Mothers were
consistent in the degree to which they saw both kinds
of social behaviors as continuing to be displayed by
children over time, and those mothers who were
likely to turn to friends, teachers, or others for advice
or assistance when dealing with their childrens with-
drawn behavior also suggested they would do so in
response to aggression. However, all eight of the cor-
responding correlations between individual emotion
ratings in response to aggression and to withdrawal
were signicant and positive, ranging from





.01 for hurt to r(64)



.001 for disap-
pointed. As well, 18 of the 56 noncorresponding cor-
relations (32%) between emotion ratings in response
to withdrawal and in response to aggression were sig-
nicant and positive, and none were signicant and
negative. In general, mothers tended to be consistent
in their emotional responses to the depictions of pre-
schoolers social behavior, and to describe themselves
across a variety of affective dimensions at a consistent
level of responsiveness.

Mother and Toddler Characteristics
Assessed at Time 1



tests were used to examine sex of child
differences in mother and toddler characteristics at
Time 1 (see Table 2). One comparison was signicant:
Boys initiated more than three times as many conicts
with an unfamiliar peer than did girls. However, for
both genders, the majority of children did initiate at
least one conict (27 boys, 15 girls), and eight children
initiated 10 or more conicts. The intercorrelations of
the variables also were examined. Mothers who rated
their toddlers as more socially fearful had children
who were observed to be more wary,


(64) .32, p
.01. No other correlations were signicant.
Data Reduction
Factor analyses with minimum eigenvalue set at
1.0 and using varimax rotation were performed on
the remaining nine averaged ratings of emotion in
response to withdrawal, and on the remaining nine
averaged ratings of emotion in response to aggres-
sion. Minimum item loadings of .40 were used. Three
factor solutions were supported by each analysis; no
emotions showed multiple loadings across factors.
For emotion ratings to withdrawal, disappointed
(loading .50), surprised (.93), and puzzled (.86) com-
bined to form the factor Confused (eigenvalue 2.66, ac-
counting for 29.6% of the variance); angry (.77), em-
barrassed (.52), hurt (.62), and guilty (.72) formed
Upset (eigenvalue 1.43; 15.8% of the variance); and
anxious (.82) and pleased (.61) formed Worried
(eigenvalue 1.21; 13.4% of the variance). For emotion
ratings to aggression, embarrassed (.77), hurt (.75),
guilty (.81), and anxious (.68) combined to form the
factor Internalized (eigenvalue 3.92; 43.6% of the vari-
ance); angry (.90), disappointed (.76), and disgusted
(.60) formed Negative (eigenvalue 1.36; 15.2% of the
variance); and surprised (.92) and puzzled (.89)
formed Confused (eigenvalue 1.07; 11.9% of the vari-
ance). Factor scores from 1 to 5 were obtained by av-
eraging the ratings of the constituent emotions.
Table 2 Comparisons of Boys and Girls Values for Mother
and Toddler Characteristics Measured at Time 1
(n 37)
Mean (SD)
(n 28)
Mean (SD) t Value
Toddler characteristics
Mother reported
Social fearfulness 3.43 (1.04) 3.51 (.85) .31
Anger proneness 3.61 (.69) 3.57 (.81) .18
Wariness .02 (.64) .01 (.60) .17
Aggressiveness 5.68 (6.61) 1.39 (2.41) 3.26**
Mother characteristics
Authoritarianism .17 (1.89) .23 (1.38) .94
Protectiveness 4.09 (.80) 4.30 (.87) 1.03
* p .05; ** p .01; *** p .001.
Hastings and Rubin 731
Factor analyses with minimum eigenvalues set at
1.0 and using varimax rotation supported single fac-
tor solutions for both sets of scores. The Negative At-
tributions factor for aggression had an eigenvalue of
1.54 and accounted for 51.3% of the variance, with the
following factor loadings: intention, .75; disposition,
.75; stability, .65. The Negative Attributions factor for
withdrawal had an eigenvalue of 1.70 and accounted
for 56.7% of the variance, with the following factor
loadings: intention, .42; disposition, .87; stability, .87.
Prediction of Maternal Beliefs and Reported
Behavior from Toddler and Mother Characteristics
Step-wise forward regression models were used to
examine the extent to which toddler and mother char-
acteristics at Time 1 predicted mothers reported emo-
tions, attributions, parenting goals, and behavior at
Time 2. There were three steps of predictor entry for
all regressions. For the predictions of responses to the
aggression stories, mothers ratings of their toddlers
Anger Proneness were entered rst to control for pre-
existing maternal perceptions of their toddlers aggres-
sive temperament. In the second step, sex of child,
toddlers observed aggressiveness, and mothers au-
thoritarian child-rearing attitudes were entered. In
the third step, the three 2-way interactions of mother
and toddler characteristics (Sex Aggressiveness;
Sex Authoritarian; Aggressiveness Authoritar-
ian) were entered. For the predictions of responses to
the withdrawal stories, mothers ratings of their tod-
dlers Social Fearfulness were entered rst to control
for preexisting maternal perceptions of their toddlers
shy temperament. In the second step, sex of child,
toddlers observed social wariness, and mothers pro-
tective child-rearing attitude were entered. In the
third step, the three 2-way interactions of mother and
toddler characteristics (Sex Wariness; Sex Protec-
tive; Wariness Protectiveness) were entered.
The results of the regression analyses predicting
mothers responses to the aggression stories are pre-
sented in Table 3. Of the 13 regressions (three emo-
tions, attributions, four parenting goals, ve behav-
iors), four accounted for signicant portions of
variance overall, and an additional three contained
signicant unique predictors.
Emotions. The regression analyses predicting
mothers Negative and Confused affect were signi-
cant, accounting for 16% and 11% of the variance, re-
spectively. Mothers who had described themselves as
having more authoritarian child-rearing attitudes at
Time 1 reported more Negative feelings in response
to preschoolers aggression. However, this was quali-
ed by a signicant interaction with toddlers aggres-
sive behavior. A median split on mothers attitudes
indicated that there was not a signicant relation be-
tween toddlers aggressiveness and mothers Nega-
tive emotions among mothers who were relatively
less authoritarian, r(32) .02; however, more au-
thoritarian mothers tended to report more Negative
emotions if their toddlers had been more aggressive,
r(31) .31, p .10. Comparison via Fishers r to z
conversion indicated that the difference between
these correlations approached statistical signicance,
z 1.31, p .10. As well, there was a signicant in-
teraction between sex of child and toddler aggres-
siveness in the prediction of Negative emotions. Al-
though there were nonsignicant correlations between
aggressiveness and Negative emotions both for boys,
r(36) .25, and for girls, r(27) .17, the difference
between these correlations approached signicance,
z 1.62, p .06, suggesting that the mothers of more
aggressive male toddlers tended to report more Neg-
ative feelings in response to preschoolers aggression,
whereas the converse was true of mothers of more ag-
gressive female toddlers.
Mothers tended to report more Confused emotions
in response to daughters aggression than to sons,
but again, this was qualied by a signicant interac-
tion between sex of child and toddler aggressiveness.
There was a nonsignicant correlation between ag-
gressiveness and Confused emotions for mothers of
boys, r(36) .08, while mothers of girls were most
likely to report Confused emotions when their daugh-
ters had been less aggressive as toddlers, r(27) .50,
p .01; the difference between these correlations was
signicant, z 1.78, p .05.
Negative attributions. Overall, 17% of the variance
in mothers Negative Attributions for preschoolers
aggression was accounted for. Mothers who had per-
ceived their toddlers as prone to angry outbursts
were more likely to attribute aggression to internal
factors. Further, toddlers actual observed aggression
also tended to predict more dispositional, intentional,
and stable attributions, and this was particularly true
for mothers who had held more authoritarian atti-
tudes. The sample was split at the median on mothers
authoritarian practices. There was a nonsignicant re-
lation between toddlers aggressiveness and mothers
Negative Attributions among mothers who fell below
the median on authoritarian attitudes, r(32) .06, but
more authoritarian mothers were signicantly more
likely to make Negative Attributions for aggression
732 Child Development
Table 3 Regression Analyses Predicting Mothers Responses to the Aggression Stories




1. Anger proneness .08 .02 .07 .26*
2. Main effects R
.15* .04 .11


Sex of child (1 male) .18 .01 .23

Aggressiveness .13 .05 .16 .25

Authoritarian .31** .19 .16 .02

3. Interactions R

.01 .09


Sex Aggressive .62* .01 1.00* .28

Sex Authoritarian .22 .17 .22 .22
Aggressive Authoritarian .24* .02 .13 .52*
Multiple R .50 .23 .46 .51
Adjusted R
.16 .00 .11 .17
F(7, 57) 2.69* .46 2.16* 2.84*
Parenting Goals




1. Anger proneness .07 .01 .00 .07
2. Main effects R
.13* .17* .02 .02
Sex of child (1 male) .08 .25

.06 .07
Aggressiveness .09 .12 .08 .05
Authoritarian .34** .31* .11 .10
3. Interactions R
.05 .00 .05 .01
Sex Aggressive .03 .04 .02 .07
Sex Authoritarian .18 .01 .10 .01
Aggressive Authoritarian .04 .00 .12

Multiple R .44 .41 .26 .16
Adjusted R
.09 .07 .00 .00
F(7, 56) 1.91

1.64 .57 .20

Parenting Behavior





1. Anger proneness .05 .10 .07 .08 .01
2. Main effects R
.13* .05 .13* .05 .03
Sex of child (1 male) .12 .12 .09 .14 .13
Aggressiveness .26

.12 .12 .05 .17

Authoritarian .19 .18 .35** .18 .02
3. Interactions R
.18** .00 .03 .01 .07
Sex Aggressive .27 .07 .17 .22 .01
Sex Authoritarian .44* .07 .17 .05 .14
Aggressive Authoritarian .33** .02 .07 .01 .00
Multiple R .56 .26 .41 .27 .31
Adjusted R
.23 .00 .06 .00 .00
F(7, 57) 3.77** .58 1.61 .63 .87

p .10; * p .05; ** p .01.

Hastings and Rubin 733
when their children had been more aggressive as tod-
dlers, r(31) .50, p .01. The difference between
these correlations was signicant, z 1.88, p .05.
Parenting goals. None of the four regression anal-
yses predicting parenting goals in response to ag-
gression reached statistical signicance, although
the prediction of parent-centered goals approached
statistical signicance, adjusted R
.09, F(7, 56)
1.93, p .10. However, for both the prediction of
parent-centered and socialization goals, the second
step of the model was signicant, and in each case
mothers authoritarian childrearing attitudes made
signicant unique contributions to the variance in
goals accounted for. Mothers who had described
themselves as more authoritarian 2 years previously
were more likely to report such parent-centered goals
as immediately stopping their preschool-aged chil-
drens aggression and ensuring that behavior would
not be repeated. At the same time, these mothers were
less likely to report socialization goals that involved
having their children understand why aggression
was inappropriate behavior or internalize standards
for self-control.
Parenting behavior. Only the regression predicting
mothers use of power assertion was signicant, with
the full model accounting for 23% of the variance.
From the signicant third step of predictor entry, there
were two signicant unique predictors: the interaction
between mothers authoritarian attitudes and toddlers
aggressiveness, and the interaction of authoritarianism
and child sex. Considering the former, the positive
value of the t test on the terms standardized weight
indicated that more power assertion was used by
mothers who were more authoritarian and had more
aggressive toddlers. A median split on mothers au-
thoritarianism indicated that the correlation between
aggressiveness and power assertion was nonsigni-
cant for both less authoritarian, r(32) .22, and more
authoritarian, r(31) .33, p .10, mothers; these cor-
relations differed nonsignicantly, z .46. However,
mothers earlier authoritarianism was predictive of
their later reports of power assertion only in response
to daughters aggression, r(27) .47, p .05, not that
of sons, r(36) .09; the difference of these correlations
approached signicance, z 1.59, p .06.
Although the overall model predicting structuring
behaviors was nonsignicant, the second step was
signicant, and a signicant unique contribution to
the variance accounted for was made by mothers au-
thoritarian attitudes. Mothers were less likely to re-
port that they would use such structuring techniques
as reasoning, modeling, and suggesting alternatives
to their preschoolers when they had reported more
authoritarian attitudes at Time 1.
Summary. Mothers earlier authoritarian childrear-
ing attitudes were the most consistent predictors of
their beliefs about their preschool-aged childrens ag-
gression. Emotionally, more authoritarian mothers
felt more anger, disgust, and disappointment, espe-
cially when their children also had been highly ag-
gressive as toddlers. They attributed aggression to in-
ternal causes, and, again, this was most pronounced
when their children had been aggressive toddlers.
More authoritarian mothers were more likely to focus
on achieving parent-centered goals related to disci-
pline, and were less concerned with socialization
goals. Behaviorally, they were less likely to report the
use of reasoning-based forms of intervention, and
more likely to suggest behavioral means of control,
particularly with daughters.
Toddlers aggressive behavior and sex also pre-
dicted maternal affective responses. Mothers were
more likely to report anger-related emotions toward
the aggression of boys. When girls were portrayed as
aggressive, however, they reported more puzzlement
and surprise if the daughters had not been very ag-
gressive as toddlers. Finally, it appeared that mater-
nal biased perceptions may have been somewhat
stable, as mothers who had seen their toddlers as
temperamentally prone to anger also attributed pre-
school-aged childrens aggression to internal factors.
The results of the regressions predicting mothers
responses to the withdrawal stories are presented in
Table 4. Of the 11 regressions (three emotions, attribu-
tions, three parenting goals, four behaviors), two ac-
counted for signicant portions of variance overall,
and an additional three contained signicant unique
Emotions. The regression analysis predicting
mothers reports of Confused emotions reached sta-
tistical signicance, accounting for 18% of the vari-
ance. This was largely determined by mothers report-
ing less confusion when they had perceived their
toddlers as temperamentally fearful of novelty and
social situations. As well, there was a signicant inter-
action of maternal protectiveness and sex of child.
There was a positive correlation between earlier pro-
tectiveness and later confusion for mothers of boys,
r(36) .19, ns, but a negative one for mothers of girls,
r(27) .28, ns; the difference between these correla-
tions was signicant, z 1.82, p .05.
While the overall regression analysis for mothers
Worried emotions was nonsignicant, there was a
signicant unique contribution made by sex of child.
Mothers reported more worried emotions in response
734 Child Development
Table 4 Regression Analyses Predicting Mothers Responses to the Withdrawal Stories




1. Social fearfulness .06 .39** .03 .09
2. Main effects R
.03 .02 .12

Sex of child (1 male) .11 .08 .32* .02
Wariness .00 .07 .05 .16
Protectiveness .10 .06 .09 .04
3. Interactions R
.03 .10

.05 .05
Sex Wariness .11 .32 .10 .10
Sex Protectiveness .01 .47* .07 .55
Wariness Protectiveness .02 .01 .14 .57
Multiple R .24 .52 .42 .28
Adjusted R
.00 .18 .07 .00
F(7, 57) 0.51 2.96** 1.71 .68
Parenting Goals



1. Social fearfulness .12 .09 .11
2. Main effects R
.04 .03 .02
Sex of child (1 male) .19 .13 .02
Wariness .03 .11 .11
Protectiveness .11 .06 .05
3. Interactions R
.05 .02 .12*
Sex Wariness .02 .09 .25*
Sex Protectiveness .03 .06 .06
Wariness Protectiveness .05 .06 .12
Multiple R .34 .25 .39
Adjusted R
.01 .00 .05
F(7, 57) 1.05 .55 1.45
Parenting Behavior




1. Social fearfulness .05 .36** .01 .06
2. Main effects R

.08 .03 .03

Sex of child (1 male) .11 .05 .04 .02
Wariness .23* .10 .18 .18
Protectiveness .04 .25* .03 .03
3. Interactions R
.06 .04 .04 .02
Sex Wariness .22

.07 .04 .02

Sex Protectiveness .08 .21

.01 .06
Wariness Protectiveness .01 .02 .08* .04
Multiple R .39 .50 .27 .24
Adjusted R
.05 .15 .00 .00
F(7, 57) 1.45 2.67* 6.65 .49

p .10; * p .05; ** p .01.

Hastings and Rubin 735
to girls withdrawn and shy behavior than in re-
sponse to that of boys.
Negative attributions. The regression for mothers
Negative Attributions in response to withdrawal was
nonsignicant, and no terms made signicant unique
Parenting goals. None of the four regressions for
mothers parenting goals in response to withdrawal
was statistically signicant. However, in the predic-
tion of mothers empathic/relational goals, there was
one term that made a signicant unique contribution:
the interaction of toddler wariness and sex of child.
There was a nonsignicant correlation between boys
wariness and their mothers later concern for achiev-
ing empathic/relational goals, r(36) .09, but moth-
ers were signicantly less likely to try reaching such
goals when their daughters had been highly wary as
toddlers, r(27) .46, p .05; these correlations were
signicantly different, z 2.23, p .05.
Parenting behaviors. The regression predicting moth-
ers supportive responses to withdrawal reached sig-
nicance, accounting for 15% of the variance, and the
model for Structuring behaviors also contained a sig-
nicant unique predictor. Mothers use of such sup-
portive techniques as comforting a child or joining in
the childs play was greater when, at Time 1, they had
reported that their toddlers were more temperamen-
tally fearful, and they had described themselves as
having more protective childrearing attitudes. The in-
teraction of sex of child and maternal protectiveness
also was of borderline signicance, and was exam-
ined as it moderated the main effect of protectiveness
in the second step of the model. More protective
mothers responded to daughters withdrawal with
more support, r(27) .52, p .01, but this was not
the case for mothers of boys, r(36) .03, ns; these
correlations differed signicantly, z 2.19, p .05.
Finally, while the overall regression predicting
mothers use of structuring behaviors was not statis-
tically signicant, mothers reported more use of these
reasoning-based techniques when their children had
been more wary with an unfamiliar peer in the tod-
dler years.
Summary. Fewer of the regressions predicting
mothers responses to withdrawal produced signi-
cant effects than was the case for responses to aggres-
sion. Mothers who perceived their toddlers as having
fearful temperaments responded to withdrawn be-
haviors 2 years later with less surprise, puzzlement,
and disappointment, and were more likely to be warm
and supportive in their responses. Mothers of children
who actually had been observed to be shy toddlers,
however, suggested that they would use reasoning-
based methods in response to preschoolers withdrawn
behaviors, and with daughters who had been shy as
toddlers, they expressed less concern for empathic/
relational goals.
Overall, mothers were less worried by the with-
drawal of sons than that of daughters. When mothers
also had expressed protective attitudes, however,
they were not surprised or puzzled by their daughters
withdrawal, and were more likely to be warm and sup-
portive of their daughters withdrawn behaviors.
Relations between Maternal Beliefs
and Reported Behaviors
The correlations between the contemporaneously
reported behaviors and mothers goals, attributions,
and emotions in response to aggression and with-
drawal are presented in Table 5. Six of the 32 correla-
tions (19%) for the withdrawal vignettes were signi-
cant, as were 10 of the 40 correlations (25%) for the
aggression vignettes; most of these correlations con-
formed to the predicted beliefbehavior relations.
Mothers reported that they would use fewer Struc-
turing behaviors when they were highly concerned
with parent-centered goals, but more when they were
focused on socialization goals; concern with the latter
also was associated with seeking help from outside
sources. Mothers who were focused on Empathic/
Relational goals in response to aggression were
more likely to be Supportive. Mothers who reported
more Negative emotions of anger, disgust, and disap-
pointment were more likely to be Power Assertive
and Psychologically Controlling, and less likely to
use either Structuring or Supportive behaviors. When
mothers focused their emotions inward, feeling guilty,
hurt, anxious, and embarrassed when their children
were aggressive, they were more likely to use Psycho-
logical Control, but when they were Confused by
their childrens aggression, they were less likely to
use power assertion.
Mothers who reported concern for parenting goals
related to developing the social skills of their children
were likely to use Structuring techniques that in-
volved directly speaking with their children about
their withdrawn behavior, and also to seek outside
advice from teachers, friends, or relatives. They did
736 Child Development
not choose to make no response to the withdrawn
behavior. Mothers who were focused on goals related
to their own relationships with their children or their
childrens immediate happiness were unlikely either
to use Structuring or Externally directed behaviors.
Mothers who were most Confused by withdrawal
were most likely to report that they would use such
Supportive techniques as comforting their children
and joining in play activities.
Many theories of socialization are centered on the ar-
gument that there are multiple determinants of parent-
ing behavior (e.g., Belsky, 1984), and information-
processing models of behavior have emphasized
parental beliefs as among the key determinants (e.g.,
Dix & Grusec, 1985; Goodnow, 1988). It is theoreti-
cally and empirically unsatisfying to suggest that
parental beliefs appear de novo, however; parents
current socialization beliefs likely develop from pre-
existing factors. Beliefs may be multiply-determined,
and transactional models of development suggest
that there may be characteristics of children that
shape the beliefs of parents (Bell, 1979). Still, there has
been very little empirical work examining parental
beliefs longitudinally. We addressed this gap in the
literature by considering how preexisting characteris-
tics of both mothers and children contribute to mater-
nal beliefs in response to aggressive and withdrawn
social behavior in early childhood.
The results of our longitudinal analyses supported
models of socialization that recognize childrens ef-
fects on parents development. Mothers authoritar-
ian attitudes and toddlers aggressive behavior were
predictive of many maternal beliefs about childrens
aggression 2 years later. To a lesser extent, mothers
protective attitudes and toddlers observed shyness
predicted some maternal beliefs about preschoolers
withdrawn behavior. However, in almost every in-
stance in which toddlers aggression or withdrawal
Table 5 Correlations between Mothers Reported Behaviors and Their Goals, Attributions, and Emotions in Response to Aggression
and Withdrawal
Responses to Aggression
Controlling Structuring Supportive
Negative attributions .20 .05 .10 .13 .10
Parent-centered .11 .05 .27* .04 .06
Socialization .17 .05 .48*** .02 .27*
Social interaction .15 .23 .11 .05 .02
Empathic/relationship .09 .09 .06 .41** .14
Negative .30* .33** .26* .29* .02
Internalized .06 .28* .17 .20 .09
Confused .26* .18 .10 .09 .22
Responses to Withdrawal
Structuring Supportive
Negative Attributions .19 .22 .08 .08
Parent-centered .04 .04 .01 .10
Socialization .17 .08 .03 .04
Social interaction .48*** .03 .31* .31*
Empathic/relationship .28* .10 .44*** .17
Upset .07 .05 .10 .02
Confused .05 .41** .06 .23
Worried .02 .21 .20 .23
* p .05; ** p .01; *** p .001.
Hastings and Rubin 737
made contributions to the prediction of maternal be-
liefs, the effect was moderated by an interaction with
maternal attitudes or the sex of the child.
Toddlers observed aggressiveness was not inde-
pendently predictive of any maternal responses to
preschool-aged aggression. However, when mothers
of aggressive toddlers also espoused more authoritar-
ian childrearing attitudes, they reacted to preschool-
ers aggression with more anger, disgust, and disap-
pointment; they attributed the aggression to stable,
dispositional, and intentional factors; and they re-
ported that they would use more high power strate-
gies such as punishing or demanding compliance. As
well, mothers tended to feel more anger-related emo-
tions when male toddlers had been aggressive, but
that was not the case for females, whereas only fe-
males early aggressiveness predicted less surprise
and puzzlement in their mothers when facing pre-
school-aged aggression.
The aggression-authoritarian interactions suggest
that certain attitudes may make mothers more vul-
nerable to inuence by their childrens characteristics.
More highly authoritarian mothers have been de-
scribed as less exible and more likely to perceive
negative characteristics in their children (Baumrind,
1967; Reid, Kavanagh, & Baldwin, 1987; Wahler &
Dumas, 1989), and to blame the negative results of
ambiguous situations on their children (Dix & Rein-
hold, 1991). This biased perspective may be induced,
or a nascent bias further entrenched, through interac-
tions with toddlers who do display high rates of aver-
sive behaviors, whereas less authoritarian mothers
may use more sensitive and exible responses to de-
crease early aversive behaviors, or may be less prone
to interpreting aggression negatively. The combina-
tion of early childhood aggression and maternal au-
thoritarianism may be especially maladaptive. Angry,
accusatory, and forceful reactions from these mothers
may foster further child aggressiveness (Patterson et
al., 1992), thus contributing to a cycle of negative
It is noteworthy that these effects were indepen-
dent of mothers initial beliefs that their toddlers were
prone to angry outbursts. Mothers who saw their tod-
dlers as anger-prone did attribute preschool-aged ag-
gression to more internal factors, suggesting there
may have been some stability in mothers tendencies
to see undesirable, acting-out behaviors as deter-
mined by characteristics inherent to a child. However,
toddlers observed aggression and mothers child-
rearing attitudes predicted still stronger attributions
of aggression to internal causes. Thus, the signicant
predictive effects cannot simply be explained as sta-
bility in maternal biases. Rather, the maternal beliefs
arose from objectively measured childrens aggression
and mothers authoritarian socialization attitudes.
The number of signicant results involving mothers
authoritarianism revealed a considerable continuity
in mothers social-cognitive development. In accord
with several of the hypotheses, mothers with early au-
thoritarian childrearing attitudes were likely to main-
tain this perspective in their specic beliefs about pre-
school-aged childrens aggression. Their goals centered
on immediately ending their childrens aversive be-
havior and discouraging further disruption, but they
were not concerned with socializing the values or skills
in their children that could lead to self-regulation.
These mothers also reported that they would use less
reasoning, or suggest or model fewer nonaggres-
sive ways of dealing with peers. And, as already de-
scribed, authoritarian mothers reported more negative
affect, made more critical attributions, and were most
likely to suggest high power techniques to control ag-
gression. This association of mothers general social-
ization values and their descriptions of cognitive, af-
fective and behavioral responses to specic events
suggests that the latter, specic beliefs may be housed
within a broader childrearing perspective or schema
(e.g., Baldwin, 1992; Grusec, Hastings, & Mammone,
1994). At the minimum, the continuity over time and
consistency across assessment modalities evidenced
by mothers should suggest to researchers that there is
a coherence in mothers childrearing beliefs that war-
rants greater attention.
The interactions between the sex of children and
toddlers aggressiveness did not exactly reect the
hypothesized relations, but may be useful for inform-
ing about mothers gender-based expectations for
young childrens aggression. Mothers were expected
to be less puzzled by aggression when their children
had been aggressive as toddlers, but this was true
only for mothers of girls. Boys are more aggressive
than girls from toddlerhood onward (Sanson et al.,
1991), and aggression is perceived as a masculine
trait. Aggression also is a stable individual character-
istic (Farrington, 1991; Olweus, 1979). Thus, a mother
may not be confused to see her preschool-aged son
act in an aggressive manner, even if he had not evi-
denced a history of such behavior; either cultural or
personal experience could prepare the mother for this
behavior. Nor might a mother be puzzled and sur-
prised to see her daughter act that way when she had
a history of behaving aggressively with peers. When
their daughters had not been aggressive toddlers,
though, mothers had no ready explanation for ag-
gressive behavior in preschool and were most likely
to feel confused.
Conversely, mothers of boys who had been more
738 Child Development
aggressive may have felt more anger, disappoint-
ment, and disgust due to their children behaving in
accord with stereotypes. Also, these mothers may have
seen their sons continue to act aggressively since tod-
dlerhood, and may have developed greater sensitiv-
ity to the behavior. In effect, they may have had a
shorter fuse for negative emotional responses to
their sons aggression. Whereas the lack of an associ-
ation between girls aggression and mothers anger
was not consistent with previous research (e.g., Mills
& Rubin, 1990), other analyses indicated that some
mothers may have found girls aggression to be more
aversive than that of boys. In particular, the aggres-
sion of girls elicited reports of highly power assertive
interventions by more authoritarian mothers. Pos-
sibly, these mothers could be seen as the most tradi-
tional in their socialization values (Kohn, 1969), and
thus may have been more highly motivated to put an
immediate stop to their daughters disruptive and
gender-atypical behavior.
The analyses of mothers responses to withdrawal
were not as strong as those for aggression, but some
intriguing ndings did emerge. It appeared that
mothers attitudes and perceptions predicted very dif-
ferent responses than did their childrens observable
characteristics. Mothers who saw their toddlers as tem-
peramentally fearful suggested that they would not be
confused to see shy behavior from preschoolers, and
that their interventions would be affectionate and sup-
portive of their children. Interestingly, these ndings
were strongest between protective mothers and their
daughters. Mothers who had endorsed highly protec-
tive childrearing attitudes were the least likely to be
puzzled, surprised, or disappointed by their daugh-
ters wary behavior, and were most likely to suggest
joining their daughters activities, playing with and
comforting the withdrawn girls.
A different picture emerged when toddlers actual,
rather than perceived, characteristics were consid-
ered. Mothers of children who had been wary as tod-
dlers did suggest that they would try to reason with
their children or model ways of interacting compe-
tently with peers, and with their shy daughters moth-
ers were more anxious, less pleased, and less likely to
be concerned with turning the focus of the situation
to the mother-daughter relationship. These ndings
suggest that, in general, mothers probably addressed
their childrens wary behaviors competently. Rather
than simply accepting their childrens lack of social
engagement, coddling or affectionately reinforcing
shy behavior, or assertively pushing children into so-
cial situations they were ill-equipped to face, mothers
suggested that they would focus on the situation at
hand, and would use interventions that would sug-
gest to their children possible ways of handling their
interactions with peers.
Conversely, mothers who reported that their tod-
dlers were dispositionally fearful, and protective
mothers of girls, responded in ways that could be ex-
pected to further support their childrens withdrawn
behaviors. Maternal interventions that involve tak-
ing over when a child is having difculty with social
interactions, rather than encouraging the child to
master the situation him or herself, are likely to exac-
erbate shyness as the child is denied opportunities to
practice self-regulation. This oversolicitous (Rubin
et al., 1997) pattern of highly involved and affection-
ate parenting has been found to be characteristic of
mothers of extremely shy and inhibited toddlers. A
mother may not consciously want her child to be shy,
but the protective actions could be maintained be-
cause they are effective for controlling situations that
arouse her childs distress. Coupled with this behav-
ioral response was the mothers expression that the
shy behavior depicted in the vignettes was not unex-
pected; mothers were emotionally prepared to see
their children being shy, and behaviorally prepared to
act in ways that could reinforce that shyness. As with
aggression, maternal perceptions and childrearing at-
titudes may contribute to a moderately consistent
style of parenting over the early childhood years, and
to parenting responses that could have undesirable
impacts on children; specically, shy behavior in girls
may be expected and supported.
It must be recognized that in general the results of
the regression analyses were low to moderate in
strength. Clearly, many factors that were not exam-
ined could be contributing to maternal beliefs about
childrens social behaviors. For example, this study
did not consider any contemporaneous variables that
might be associated with the mothers responses,
such as their cultural milieu (Schneider, Attilli, Ver-
migli, & Younger, 1997) or their childrens current so-
cial competence. As well, consideration of mothers
protective attitudes is a fairly recent addition to re-
search into the development of childrens social com-
petence, and the measure used in this investigation
will require future tests of its validity. Acknowledg-
ing these limitations, it still is noteworthy that fully
half of the regression analyses produced signicant
results, either at the overall level or with specic pre-
dictors. Furthermore, many of the ndings were con-
sistent with past literature and our predictions; others,
of course, should be regarded as preliminary, sugges-
tive, and in need of replication.
Although the contemporaneous and self-report as-
pects of the information relating maternal beliefs and
behaviors necessitate caution in interpretations, some
Hastings and Rubin 739
interesting ndings did emerge. In particular, there
was considerable coherence between mothers behav-
iors and their goals. Mothers reported that they would
use structuring and advice-seeking to attain social-
ization and social-interaction goals. However, they
avoided such techniques when they simply wanted
compliance, perhaps because of the time and patience
required to respond those ways. Mothers also did not
suggest them when they pursued empathic/relational
goals, possibly because such actions communicate an
implicit rejection of a childs current behavior. Thus, it
seems that mothers were responding in accord with
naive, but logical, models of goal-directed socializa-
tion behavior (Hastings & Grusec, 1998).
Perhaps most intriguing was nding a potential
motivational basis for the kinds of permissive parent-
ing that have been associated with heightened ag-
gression in the preschool years (e.g., Baumrind, 1967;
Patterson & Bank, 1989). Although only 12 mothers
reported concern for goals of ensuring their own
childs happiness or promoting the quality of the
mother-child relationship in response to aggression,
10 of these mothers reported they would comfort and
support their aggressive children. In comparison,
fewer than half the mothers who did not report such
goals suggested such behaviors. Responses that sug-
gest aggression is acceptable may foster greater aggres-
siveness in children for several reasons: It is rewarding
attention that fails to communicate to a child that any
incorrect action was made; it does not impose conse-
quences that might extinguish the aggression; and it
does not offer any alternative methods of dealing with
future frustrations that may arise. If intervention work
could target mothers focus of concern when interven-
ing in their childrens disputes, possibly more effective
socialization responses could be encouraged.
In summary, this investigation successfully began
to address a notable gap in socialization literature by
identifying child and mother-child interactional ef-
fects on mothers formation of parenting beliefs. In-
sights into adult social-cognitive development and
evidence of transactional processes were gained. Fur-
ther, these results pointed to ways in which childrens
continuity and change in aggressive and withdrawn
behaviors may be fostered by reciprocal paths of in-
uence between parent and child, thus indicating im-
portant potential avenues of further research. By
working from theoretical perspectives that recognize
bidirectional effects and adopting methodologies
appropriate for examining such effects, researchers
should be able to gain a more detailed and accurate
understanding of social development within the fam-
ily and broader social spheres.
The research reported in this manuscript was sup-
ported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Hu-
manities Research Council of Canada to Kenneth H.
Rubin. Support for author Hastings was provided by
the National Institute of Mental Health. Support for
author Rubin was provided by the Ontario Mental
Health Foundation Senior Research Fellowship. We
are grateful to the participants for their involvement,
and to the following individuals for their contribu-
tions to the research: Edna Abrahim, Xinyin Chen,
Lynne Fenton, Heather Henderson, Daniela Her-
mann, Kerri Hogg, Loretta Lapa, Kelly Lemon, Jo-
Anne McKinnon, Kevin McNichol, Carolyn Prinsen,
Amy Rubin, Alice Rushing, Shannon Stewart, Steven
Udvari, and Cherami Wischman.
Corresponding author: Paul D. Hastings, National Insti-
tute of Mental Health, Section on Developmental Psy-
chopathology, National Institutes of Health, 15 North
Drive, Building 15-K, Room 202-A, Bethesda, MD
20892; e-mail: Paul_D_Hastings@nih.gov. Kenneth H.
Rubin is at the University of Maryland, College Park.
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