Coercive Parenting Mediates the Relationship between Military Fathers’ Emotion Regulation and children’s Adjustment

Jingchen Zhang, Alyssa Palmer, Na Zhang, Abigail H. Gewirtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Military parents’ combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms have been linked to poor parenting and child maladjustment. Emotion regulation (ER) difficulties are thought to underlie PTSD symptoms, and research has begun to link parental ER to parenting behaviors. Little empirical evidence exists regarding whether fathers’ ER is associated with child adjustment and what may be the underlying mechanism for this association. This study investigated whether deployed fathers’ ER was associated with child emotional and behavioral problems, and whether the associations were mediated by coercive parenting behaviors. The sample consisted of 181 deployed fathers with non-deployed female partners and their 4- to 13-year-old children. Families were assessed at three time points over 2 years. ER was measured using a latent construct of fathers’ self-reports of their experiential avoidance, trait mindfulness, and difficulties in emotion regulation. Coercive parenting was observed via a series of home-based family interaction tasks. Child behaviors were assessed through parent- and child-report. Structural equation modeling revealed that fathers with poorer ER at baseline exhibited higher coercive parenting at 1-year follow-up, which was associated with more emotional and behavioral problems in children at 2-year follow-up. The indirect effect of coercive parenting was statistically significant. These findings suggest that fathers’ difficulties in ER may impede their effective parenting behaviors, and children’s adjustment problems might be amplified as a result of coercive interactions. Implications for the role of paternal ER on parenting interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-645
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020



  • Emotion regulation
  • Externalizing behavior problems
  • Internalizing behavior problems
  • Military fathers
  • Parenting coercion

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