Reciprocal Associations between Parent-Child Relationship Quality and Children's Emotional Reactivity

Open Access
Depaul, Michael Leo
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Alysia Yvonne Blandon, Thesis Supervisor
  • Rick R Jacobs, Honors Advisor
  • parent-child relationships
  • emotional reactivity
  • relationship quality
  • middle childhood
The NICHD SECCYD longitudinal dataset was utilized to examine the reciprocal associations between mother-child and father-child relationships with child emotion reactivity. Parent-child interactions have been shown to affect children’s ability to self-regulate their emotions and improve social and emotional competence in middle childhood (McDowell, Kim, O’Neil, & Parke, 2002). Furthermore, the literature shows a bidirectional effect between parent and child interactions. We investigated the reciprocal associations between parent-child relationship quality and children’s emotional reactivity from 3rd through 6th grade. We also endeavored to contribute to the few studies that have addressed the effects of father-child relationships on children’s emotional reactivity. In the current study, we used a subsample of the NICHD SECC dataset which consisted of 648 triads, including mother (87% Caucasian), father (89% Caucasian), and child (50% male, 86% Caucasian) all living together during the four time points. Mothers and fathers completed the short form of the Child-Parent Relationship Scale to evaluate their levels of closeness and conflict with the child (Pinata, 2001). Mothers and fathers completed the Parent Report on Children’s Reactions at 3rd grade, and mothers, fathers, and teachers completed the TRCR at 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. Two cross-lagged models were constructed to assess the reciprocal associations between child emotion reactivity and parent-child relationship quality (i.e., conflict and closeness). Interestingly, parent-child conflict was not a significant predictor of child emotion reactivity. However, parent-child conflict was significantly predicted by child emotion reactivity at all time points. Results indicated that higher child emotion reactivity was associated with higher parent-child conflict reported by both mother and father the next year. In addition, none of the cross-lag effects were significant. Therefore, future research should further investigate the importance of child emotion reactivity in parent-child conflict and the mechanisms of the bidirectional relationship.