Social and Interpersonal Environments and Parent-Child Relationship Quality from Preschool to Adolescence

Kei Nomaguchi [PI]
Social and Interpersonal Environments and Parent-Child Relationship Quality from Preschool to Adolescence


Using longitudinal data from the NICHD Study of Early Childhood and Youth Development (SECCYD), this project seeks to identify the sources of and variation in closeness and conflict in parent-child relationships from preschool to adolescence. Drawing on the life course perspective, the research team examines dynamic trajectories of parent-child relationships that are influenced by transitions and trajectories of school, work, and family environments. Specific questions include:

1.    How do children’s interpersonal environments at school (i.e., relationships with teachers and peers) influence children’s adjustment to school and, in turn, influence parent-child relationship quality (i.e., warmth and conflict) from ages 4 to 15? We focus on whether the effects depend on timing (e.g., the transition to school, middle childhood, and the transition to adolescence) and duration of experiencing negative or positive relationship quality with teachers and peers.

2.    How do longitudinal patterns of fathers’ and mothers’ employment (e.g., unemployment, negative or positive job experiences) and marriage/partnership (e.g., relationship history and quality) influence parental economic and psychological well-being, quality of parenting, and, in turn, parent-child relationship quality? Do the effects depend on the degree of instability, duration of living with parents with certain work or relationship characteristics, and timing of parental work or marital transitions?

3.    Is there variation in patterns of trajectories of parent-child relationship quality from ages 4 to 15 (e.g., stably high, stable low, declining, and increasing) by parental education level, a key characteristic that affects the degree to which children experience parental job and marital instabilities?

A warm, trusting, emotionally close parent-child relationship is related to better cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes of children. Thus it is crucial to identify the factors that influence parent-child relationship quality over the course of children’s developmental stages as well as to decipher variation in parent-child relationship quality across different sociodemographic groups. Prior studies emphasize that parent-child relationship quality is largely established through parent-child interactions during early childhood and it stays fairly stable during middle childhood. Yet there is no empirical research that examined change and stability in parent-child relationship quality from preschool to adolescence using panel data tracking the same parent-child dyads with diverse sociodemographic backgrounds.

This project will move the field forward by empirically establishing trajectories of parent-child relationship quality from preschool to adolescence and their variation. Further, it will improve understanding of factors influencing parent-child relationship quality by considering the role of teachers and peers, as well as parental work and marriage, from the life course perspective.