Mothers' dispositional distress reactivity as a predictor of maternal support following momentary fluctuations in children's aversive behavior

Niyantri Ravindran, Nancy L. McElwain, Daniel Berry, Laurie Kramer

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6 Scopus citations


Given that maternal support promotes healthy social and emotional development in early childhood, it is important to understand the predictors of such support, especially during emotional challenges. In this study, mothers' dispositional distress reactivity (i.e., the tendency toward experiencing distress in response to children's negative emotions and behavior) was assessed as a predictor of maternal support in a given moment when children showed within-person fluctuations in aversive behavior (i.e., negative affect and disruptive behaviors) in concurrent and prior moments. Data were collected when children were 33 months of age. Mothers (N=128) reported on their distress reactivity, and maternal support and child aversive behavior were coded in 15-s intervals during a 5-min snack-delay task. As hypothesized, multilevel models revealed that mothers' dispositional distress reactivity predicted decreases in maternal support when children showed within-person increases in aversive behavior in the prior 15-s interval but not in the concurrent interval. Findings highlight the importance of investigating the contributions of maternal dispositional tendencies to moment-to-moment changes in parenting behavior during moderate, everyday challenges with young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-219
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Hatch projects ILLU-793-362 and ILLU-793-332) and the University of Illinois Research Board to Nancy L. McElwain. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the University of Illinois. We are grateful to the families who participated in this research. We also thank Elissa Thomann Mitchell, who played a key role in coordinating and supervising the mother– child laboratory visits, and Amber Welsh, Abbie Price, Angela Turenne, and Cayla Bollinger, who assisted with observational coding of maternal and child behavior.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Psychological Association.


  • Child aversive behavior
  • Dispositional distress reactivity
  • Maternal support
  • Time-series analyses


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