Contingencies in mother-child teaching interactions and behavioral regulation and dysregulation in early childhood

Erika S. Lunkenheimer, Christine J. Kemp, Erin C. Albrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Predictable patterns in early parent-child interactions may help lay the foundation for how children learn to self-regulate. The present study examined contingencies between maternal teaching and directives and child compliance in mother-child problem-solving interactions at age 3.5 and whether they predicted children's behavioral regulation and dysregulation (inhibitory control and externalizing behaviors) as rated by mothers, fathers, and teachers at a four-month follow-up (N= 100). The predictive utility of mother- and child-initiated contingencies was also compared with that of frequencies of individual mother and child behaviors. Structural equation models revealed that a higher probability that maternal directives were followed by child compliance predicted better child behavioral regulation, whereas the reverse pattern and the overall frequency of maternal directives did not. For teaching, stronger mother- and child-initiated contingencies and the overall frequency of maternal teaching all showed evidence for predicting better behavioral regulation. Findings depended on which caregiver was rating child outcomes. We conclude that dyadic measures are useful for understanding how parent-child interactions impact children's burgeoning regulatory abilities in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-339
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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