The role of parental attachment and limit-setting on toddler behavior : separate and combined influences of mothers and fathers
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Much research has been done in the area of toddler compliance/defiance and emotion regulation from a socialization perspective, and although some of this research has used attachment theory as a theoretical basis, there is little empirical literature that measures both attachment in infancy and parental limit-setting in toddlerhood as predictors of toddler compliance, emotionally negative defiance, or emotion regulation. In addition, few studies include fathers’ attachment and limit-setting along with mothers, or examine the different combinations of parenting units’ influence on toddler behavior. The goals of the current study are to assess how infant-parent attachment and parental limit-setting with mothers and fathers separately predict toddler behavior both with the same parent and with the other parent, and how different combinations of parental units, including mother-infant and father-infant attachment and maternal and paternal limit setting, relate to toddler behavior. This study uses longitudinal data, with the infantparent attachment relationships assessed using the Strange Situation at 12 and 15 months, and at 24-months the toddlers were brought into the lab and videotaped in a 20-minute play session, clean-up, and two teaching tasks with each parent. The parents were rated individually on their use of developmentally appropriate, permissive, and harsh/controlling parenting styles, and the toddlers were rated on compliance and emotionally negative defiance; the toddlers were also rated on emotion regulation in a separate task with an experimenter. Using OLS regression analyses, this study found parental limit-setting to be a stronger predictor of toddler behavior than attachment, and toddler behavior can only be predicted in the interaction with the same parent--maternal limit-setting does not predict toddler behavior with father or vice versa. Combinations of parent-infant attachment classifications were then assessed using ANOVAs, and different combinations of infant-parent attachment were related to toddlers’ emotion regulation. Hierarchical clustering techniques were implemented to determine how to create parenting units based on the different parenting styles, and four distinct clusters emerged: both parents developmentally appropriate, both parents are harsh/controlling and permissive, mother is appropriate and father is permissive, mother is permissive and father is appropriate. ANOVAs were then used to relate these clusters to the toddler behaviors.