Infant negative affect moderates longitudinal associations between maternal gatekeeping and toddlers’ social–emotional difficulties

Lauren E. Altenburger, Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal gatekeeping is characterized by the extent to which mothers engage in behaviors that ultimately serve to inhibit (i.e., gate close) or encourage (i.e., gate open) father involvement in childrearing. This study considered direct and indirect associations between observed and reported maternal gatekeeping and children’s social–emotional difficulties. Data come from a sample of 182 parents who transitioned to parenthood in 2008–2010 and their young children. Results of longitudinal path analyses indicated mothers’ perceptions of maternal gate closing at 3-months postpartum were associated with greater dysregulation (β =.21, 95% CI [.08,.35], p =.002) and externalizing (β =.25, 95% CI [.10,.41], p =.001) in 26-month-old toddlers. Observed maternal gate opening at 3-months postpartum predicted lower dysregulation (β = −.18, 95% CI [−.32, −.05], p =.008) in 26-month-old toddlers. Observed fathers’ parenting quality did not mediate associations between maternal gatekeeping and child social–emotional difficulties. However, a statistically significant interaction between infant negative affect and observed maternal gate opening emerged as a predictor of toddler dysregulation, such that the adjusted negative effect of observed maternal gate opening on toddler dysregulation was strongest when infant negative affect was low. Statistically significant interactions between fathers’ perceptions of gate closing and infant negative affect also emerged as predictors of toddler dysregulation and externalizing. Infants high in negative affect exposed to maternal gate closing were at the greatest risk for externalizing and dysregulation difficulties. Implications for maternal gatekeeping theory and research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-523
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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