Running head: MOTHER-SON POSITIVE SYNCHRONY

 

 

Mother-son Positive Synchrony in Middle Childhood:

Relation to Antisocial Behavior

 

Michael M. Criss

Daniel S. Shaw

University of Pittsburgh

Erin M. Ingoldsby

University of Washington

 

The research reported in this paper was supported by grants to Daniel Shaw from the National Institute of Mental Health, grants MH 46925 and MH 50907. We would like to thank Melanie Bowman, Michaelle Jean-Pierre, Donielle Mesko, Angela Saclaro, and Joy Stickney for their help in coding the videotapes. We also extend our thanks to Malinda Colwell for her comments on an early draft of this paper. We are grateful to the work of the staff of the Pitt Mother & Child Project for their years of service, and to our study families for making the research possible. Correspondence can be sent to: Michael M. Criss, Department of Psychology, 210 S. Bouquet Street – Suite 4105, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Electronic mail may be sent to mmc1@pitt.edu.

 

 

 

Social Development (in press)


Abstract

The aim of the present investigation was to examine mother-son positive synchrony and its link to child and best friend antisocial behavior in middle childhood. Data were collected from 122 families with 10-year-old children during home assessments. Positive synchrony was rated during a parent-child discussion task. Data also were gathered on parent-child openness and conflict, harsh discipline, parental monitoring, and the child’s social information processing. Four domains of child adjustment were assessed: antisocial behavior (ages 8 and 10), best friend antisocial behavior (ages 8 and 10), social skills (age 10), and anxiety/depression (age 10). The results indicated that observed positive synchrony was significantly related to measures tapping parenting, parent-child conflict, and child social information processing, as well as to youth and best friend antisocial behavior. The associations between synchrony and antisocial behavior remained significant after controlling for prior youth adjustment and other child and parenting factors. Developmental implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

 


Mother-son Positive Synchrony in Middle Childhood:

Relation to Antisocial Behavior

A number of researchers have postulated that the quality of the parent-child relationship serves a prominent role in the development of children’s behavioral and social competence (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Maccoby, 1992; Russell, Pettit, & Mize, 1998; Sroufe 1983; Thompson, 1998). In particular, stylistic qualities of parent-child interaction have been viewed as critical in providing a context conducive for the socialization of children (Harrist & Waugh, in press; Kochanska & Murray, 2000; Maccoby, 1992; Mize & Pettit, 1997). Indeed, parent-child interactions characterized by reciprocity, mutual responsiveness and attentiveness, interconnectedness, shared affect, and overall synchronicity have been found to be predictive of higher levels of child social skills (Lindsey, Mize, & Pettit, 1997), more positive relationships with peers (Mize & Pettit, 1997), and most notably, fewer conduct problems, including aggression (Harrist, Pettit, Dodge, & Bates, 1994; Shaw, Keenan, & Vondra, 1994), noncompliance (Feldman, Greenbaum, & Yirmiya, 1999; Kochanska & Murray, 2001; Martin, 1981; Shaw et al., 1998), and more global indices of externalizing behaviors (Bates, Maslin, & Frankel, 1985; Renken, Egeland, Marvinney, Mangelsdorf, & Sroufe,1989; Shaw et al., 1994, 1998). It appears that synchronous and mutually responsive parent-child interactions are important in promoting optimal development, particularly in infancy and early childhood when the vast majority of the aforementioned studies were conducted. However, it is less clear whether these stylistic qualities remain relevant in subsequent developmental periods. In the present study, we evaluated mother-son positive synchrony in a sample of families with 10-year-old boys and examined its link to antisocial behavior, as well as other domains of child adjustment.


In recent years, the idea that parent-child socialization can be better conceptualized as a dyadic rather than a unilateral process has gained acceptance in the literature (Bugental & Goodnow, 1998; Kochanska, 1997; Maccoby, 1992). For instance, Maccoby and others (Kochanska, 1997; Maccoby, 1992; Maccoby & Martin, 1983) have depicted the socialization process as involving the induction of the child into a system of reciprocity. More precisely, through the formation of a binding and mutually responsive relationship, parents and their children are said to be more invested in the relationship, more attentive to each other’s needs and welfare, and more amenable to the other’s influence. Moreover, in the context of such a relationship, there should be increased mutual trust and understanding – a general expectation that one’s needs would be met in a predictable fashion (Kochanska, 1997). The establishment of a mutually responsive relationship is thought to predicate two important developmental consequences relevant to the development of conduct problems. First, as posited by attachment theorists (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Shaw & Bell, 1993; Sroufe, 1983), children in relationships characterized by responsive caregiving would be expected to be more receptive to parental efforts to socialize their behavior, resulting in more compliant and less oppositional behavior. Accordingly, such children would have more to lose by displeasing a responsive caregiver (Maccoby & Martin, 1983; Shaw & Bell, 1993). Second, and as a direct consequence of a history of responsive caregiving, children from mutually responsive parent-child relationships would likely elicit fewer parental coercive tactics (Kochanska, 1997; Maccoby, 1984a), a parenting construct that has been linked to conduct problems among preschoolers (Martin, 1981; Shaw et al., 1994, 1998) and school-age children (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992; Snyder & Patterson, 1986). In the context of mutuality, child compliance to parental prohibitions could be gained from gentle influence rather than harsh, coercive discipline. Thus, the establishment of a mutually responsive and reciprocal parent-child relationship is posited as critical in the deterrence of conduct problems in early and middle childhood.


One construct that taps mutual responsiveness and reciprocity in the parent-child dyad is interactional synchrony. Synchrony has been defined in the literature as the degree to which the parent-child dyad displays responsiveness, reciprocity, engagement, mutual focus, and shared affect during interactions (Belsky, Youngblade, Rovine, & Volling, 1991; Harrist et al., 1994; Harrist & Waugh, in press; Mize & Pettit, 1997). One central feature of synchrony is that it is dyadic in nature. That is, although parent-child interactions may be guided largely by parents (Isabella & Belsky, 1991; Lindsey et al., 1997; Mize & Pettit, 1997; Rocissano, Slade, & Lynch, 1987), the construct reflects the interactional style of the dyad rather than the behavior of individual participants (Harrist & Waugh, in press). Although synchrony has been partitioned into discrete components by some (e.g., Isabella & Belsky, 1991), other researchers have argued that such an approach might fail to capture the “systemic wholeness” and co-constructed nature of mother-child interaction (e.g., Fogel, 1993; Harrist & Waugh, in press).


The salience of synchronous parent-child interactions has been exemplified in empirical investigations of this construct in relation to the adjustment of young children, particularly in reference to conduct problems. For example, Feldman et al. (1999) examined the link between synchrony at 3 and 9 months and child compliance at age 2. They found that maternal synchrony (i.e., responsiveness) at 3 months and mutual synchrony (i.e., shared affect) at age 9 months were both related to higher levels of child compliance at age 2 after controlling for maternal warmth, child temperament, and child IQ. In a series of studies by Mize and Pettit (Lindsey et al., 1997; Mize & Pettit, 1997; Pettit & Mize, 1993), mother-child synchrony was observed in a laboratory setting using a sample of families with preschool-age children. The findings indicated that synchrony was significantly related to lower levels of child aggression and higher levels of child social skills and peer acceptance. These associations remained significant after taking into account the level of mother’s social coaching. Home observations of mother-child synchrony during preschool were measured in a study by Harrist et al. (1994). The authors found that positive synchrony (i.e., extended, connected, non-negative interactions) was significantly associated with higher levels of teacher-rated child social competence and lower levels of teacher- and peer-rated child aggression.

Collectively, the findings from these studies converge in demonstrating synchrony to be an important predictor of children’s behavioral and social competence in early childhood, most notably for children’s conduct problems (Harrist & Waugh, in press). The question is whether synchrony would continue to be associated with conduct problems and other domains of behavioral adjustment in school-age children. With children’s entry into school and increased involvement with peers (Ladd, 1999; Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 1998), they are spending progressively more time away from home and less time under direct parental supervision. As the amount of actual time parents spend with children decreases, it actually may become more important for parents to maintain mutually responsive and synchronous interactions with their offspring. Indeed, empirical evidence has indicated that a balanced and responsive parent-child relationship, hallmark of an authoritative parenting style (Baumrind, 1989; Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989), continues to be an important predictor of adjustment into adolescence.


This study seeks to expand our understanding of parent-child positive synchrony and its link to child adjustment by assessing this construct and its relation to children’s antisocial behavior and other adjustment domains in families with 10-year-old boys. The analytic strategy consisted of three parts. First, we attempted to validate our measure of positive synchrony by examining its association with measures of the parent-child dyad (i.e., openness, conflict), parenting (i.e., harsh discipline, monitoring), and child characteristics (i.e., aggressive social cognitions). We hypothesized that observed synchrony would be associated with higher levels of openness and parental monitoring and lower levels of conflict, harsh discipline, and child aggressive social cognition. Second, we analyzed the links between positive synchrony and child antisocial behavior. Based on attachment and social learning theories, it was hypothesized that children from dyads characterized by highly synchronous interactions would report engaging in lower levels of antisocial behavior. Based on Patterson’s (1982) early-starter model, that posits links between parenting and early child conduct problems that lead to affiliation with delinquent peers, we hypothesized that positive synchrony would be negatively associated with antisocial behavior among the target children’s best friends. In addition, we explored the specificity of the association to antisocial behavior by examining synchrony in relation to other domains of child adjustment, namely children’s social skills and internalizing problems. These latter analyses involving social skills and internalizing problems were considered exploratory based on the few number of studies (i.e., all with young children) carried out examining these domains of child adjustment (e.g., Harrist et al., 1994; Mize & Pettit, 1997). Finally, to study the potential independent contribution of synchrony and to replicate the findings of earlier investigations (e.g., Feldman et al., 1999; Mize & Pettit, 1997), we examined whether the associations between positive synchrony and antisocial behavior remained significant after controlling for factors that previously have been linked to antisocial behavior: parent-child openness and conflict, monitoring, harsh discipline, child social information processing, and early child and peer antisocial behavior (e.g., Dishion, Patterson, Stoolmiller, & Skinner, 1991; Dodge, Bates, & Pettit, 1990; Patterson et al., 1992; Pettit, Laird, Dodge, Bates, & Criss, 2001).

Method

Participants


The sample consisted of 122 families with 10-year-old sons drawn from an ongoing longitudinal project on the development of child antisocial behavior (Gilliom, Shaw, Beck, Schonberg, & Lukon, 2002). The sample was recruited from low-income families who were participants in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutritional Supplement Program in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. The WIC program provides food supplements for income-eligible families from pregnancy until children are 5 years old. Initially, 421 families were approached at WIC sites when the target children were between 6 and 17 months old. Fourteen (3.3%) declined to participate at the time of recruitment and an additional 97 (23%) declined before the first assessment. Thus, of the 421 families asked, 310 participated in the first assessment when the children were 1˝ years old (51.3% European-American, 39.2% African-American, 9.5% other ethnic groups; 33% single parent-headed families). Because the original intent of the project was to examine precursors of antisocial behavior, the sample was restricted to boys. At the time of the first assessment, the mothers ranged in age from 17 to 43 years (M = 28 years). Mean per capita family income was $12,553 per year, with a mean Hollingshead (1979) socioeconomic status of 24.8, indicative of a working class sample. Subsequent lab or home assessments were administered when children were ages 2, 3˝, 5, 5˝, 6, 8, and 10.

At the age 10 assessment, data were available from 252 families (81.3% of original sample), including in-home interviews from 242 families (78% of original sample). Because the focus of the present study was examining positive synchrony, a construct reflecting the interactional style of the parent-child dyad, only families where one parent interacted with the target child were included in the present investigation (N = 124). Because fathers were the primary caregiver in only two of these families, their data were excluded from the present study. Thus, the final sample consisted of 122 families (48.0% European-American, 43.1% African-American, 8.9% other ethnic groups; 54.8% single parent-headed families; mean family yearly income = $25,851, SD = 15,593.96; mean maternal education = 13.14 years, SD = 1.64; mean family SES = 29.75, SD = 10.24). It should be emphasized that although the resulting sample of 122 had proportionately more single parent-headed families than the original sample of 252 (33%), there still were a large number of married/cohabitating families observed during the interaction task where fathers/partners did not participate (45.2%).


Selected (N = 122) and attrited (N = 120) families with available age 10 home assessments were compared on age 10 indicators of family yearly income, parent-child openness, parent-child conflict, parental monitoring, harsh discipline, child antisocial behavior, child social skills, and child internalizing problems. The two groups only differed on family income, F (1,225) = 5.77, p < .05, with the participating families reporting lower income (M = $25,746.57) than the nonparticipating families (M = 31,605.84). Participating families (N = 122) also were compared with nonparticipating families at the initial recruitment when the child was 1˝ years old (N = 188) on indicators of maternal education, annual family income, and mother-reported toddler oppositional behavior. No significant differences were found between the two groups on any of the three measures.

Overview

Although prior child and best friend antisocial behavior were measured during the age 8 assessment, data for the present study were primarily collected at age 10 during an extensive home assessment that included individual interviews with parent(s) (i.e., fathers if available) and the target child, and a set of videotaped family interactions. Most families engaged in four semi-structured interaction tasks. First, mothers and fathers (or cohabitating partners) were asked to discuss issues they reported as currently being conflictual for them. Second, mothers, the target children, and fathers (if available) participated in a similar conflict resolution task. Third, the entire family (including a sibling if available) were videotaped while playing the game Jenga. The target child and sibling also were videotaped playing one of several action games (e.g., air hockey).

Procedure

Interviews. The interviewers first presented an overview of the home assessment to the parent and child. Generally, one research assistant interviewed the mother and the other assistant interviewed the child. During the interviews, the parent and child were asked a series of questions concerning topics including parenting, the parent-child relationship, the child’s peer relationships, neighborhood characteristics, parental psychological problems, and the child’s behavioral adjustment.


Videotaped interaction task. In the present study, positive synchrony was rated during the second interaction task where the parent and child discussed family conflicts. The interaction task was based on procedures developed Hetherington et al. (1992) and adapted by Conger and colleagues (Melby & Conger, 2001; Melby et al., 1998). During the 8-minute task, the dyad discussed two ‘hot’ issues rated by both mothers and children as conflictual, selected from a 24-item questionnaire of typical family conflicts (e.g., child’s choice of friends, child keeping room tidy; Hetherington et al., 1992). This task was designed to examine how the parent and child dyad discuss and solve family conflicts.

Measures

The observational measure of mother-child positive synchrony, developed for the present study, was based on other measures in the literature (Belsky et al., 1991; Criss et al., 2001; Harrist et al., 1994; Mize & Pettit, 1997). It reflected the harmony, reciprocity, responsiveness, interconnectedness, engagement, mutual focus, and shared affect of the dyad during interaction. Synchrony indexes the degree to which the members of the dyad reflect back on one another (e.g., reflective listening) and can be characterized by a balance between partners in leading and following the action sequence. Synchrony was rated on a 9-point scale with highly detailed anchor points (see Appendix A for description of anchor points). The ratings of positive synchrony were based only on observed evidence and were made one time for each family at the end of the 8-minute problem solving task.


The research assistants who rated mother-child positive synchrony were trained in three steps. First, the coders were administered a written exam and were required to receive at least 90% of the possible points on the exam. Second, during a 6-week training session, the coders viewed videotapes (coded by the first author who served as coding supervisor) depicting various levels of mother-child synchrony. The final part of the training session consisted of a video observation test where each person coded 5 randomly selected tapes that were coded by the first author. After passing the observational exam – 80% within-one point agreement – the coders were randomly assigned tapes to code. To assess interrater reliability, approximately 25% of the tapes (N = 30) were randomly assigned to a primary coder (whose ratings were used in the analyses) and a reliability coder (the first author). The coders independently rated their assigned tapes and were blind as to which tapes had been assigned for reliability purposes. Reliability between the primary and reliability coders was calculated using intraclass correlations (ρ). In general, intraclass correlations above .55 are thought to be acceptable for these types of data (Mitchell, 1979). Interrater reliability for observed mother-child positive synchrony was in an acceptable range (Interrater reliability: ρ = .73; p < .001; within-in one percent agreement = 81%).

Mother- and child-report of relationship quality was based on ratings from the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale (STRS; Pianta & Steinberg, 1991), which was adapted for use with parents by slightly changing the wording of items to reflect the parent-child relationship. Attachment-related issues are ascertained, as are the mother’s feelings about the child and his behavior. Two factors were used in the present investigation: openness and conflict. Mother-child openness reflects the extent to which the relationship is positive, warm, and open, especially regarding the child’s emotional needs (e.g., “If upset, this child seeks comfort in me”, “It is easy to be in tune with what he is feeling”). The mother-reported measure of openness consists of 5 items (α = .77), and the child-reported measure has 4 items (α = .61). Mother-child conflict assesses the frequency of conflict in the dyad (e.g., “This child and I seem to always struggling with one another”, “This child easily becomes angry at me”). The mother-reported measure of conflict consists of 10 items (α = .88), and the child measure has 9 items (α = .77). Mothers and children rated the openness and conflict items using a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (“definitely not”) to 5 (“definitely”). Previous research using this data set found parent-child conflict to be significantly related to higher levels of interparental and child-peer conflict (Ingoldsby, Shaw, & Garcia, 2001).


During the home interviews, the mothers and children also were asked questions regarding the supervision and discipline of the children. The 9-item mother-report of parental monitoring, which was based on items described in Dishion et al. (1991), reflects the level of parent-child communication, parental involvement, and parental knowledge regarding the child’s daily activities at home, in school, or with peers (e.g., “How often do you talk with child about what he does with friends?”, “How involved are you in child’s school work?”, “When your child goes out of the house, how often are you aware of what he is doing?”). Because some of the questions were rated on different Likert scales, the items were standardized before averaging to create the final monitoring composite score (α = .63). Previous research using comparable measures have found high levels of monitoring to be significantly associated with lower levels of child and peer antisocial behavior (see Dishion & McMahon, 1998 for review). Mother- and child-report of harsh discipline also was based on a measure developed by Dishion and colleagues (1991) and assesses the degree to which the mother uses harsh, physical tactics when disciplining her son (e.g., slap or hit, threaten, yell). The child-reported measure consists of three items (α = .57), and the mother-reported instrument has six items (α = .72). Because some of the items rated by the mother used different Likert scales, the six items were standardized and averaged to create the mother-reported harsh discipline score. Previous research has found high levels of harsh discipline to be associated with higher levels of child externalizing behaviors and peer rejection (e.g., Criss, Pettit, Bates, Dodge, & Lapp, 2002; Dodge et al., 1990; Dishion et al., 1991).


Social information processing was assessed using a procedure developed by Dodge (Dodge et al., 1990; Dodge & Somberg, 1987), during which the target child was asked to respond to a set of questions after viewing of a series of 8 vignettes (e.g., child hit in the back with ball, child bumped by peer) that were presented orally and with accompanying pictures. In each vignette the behavior of one boy leads to a negative outcome for a second boy, but the reasons for the negative outcome are varied. The target child assesses the intent of the first boy after watching each vignette. Because we were interested in children’s tendencies to use aggressive responses in responding to these conflicts, one score was generated to indicate children’s aggressive conflict resolution strategies. The children’s gave free responses to each vignette, and their responses were rated by the interviewer (Interrater reliability: κ = .92) using a 4-point scale ranging from “don’t know, nothing, or ask again/ask why” (0) to “retaliate” (3). The final aggressive response decisions score was based on the average of the child’s responses to the eight stories (α = .75). Previous research using this measure and similar adaptations has found it to be consistently related to children’s antisocial outcomes, particularly with school-age children (Dodge & Schwartz, 1997).

Four domains of child adjustment were assessed in the present study. Child-report of antisocial behavior was assessed at ages 8 and 10. When the children were 8 years old, they completed a short form of the Child Behavior Checklist - Youth Self-report (CBCL - YSR; Achenbach, 1991). This questionnaire consisted of 21 items (α = .84) that tapped aggressive and delinquent behavior (e.g., mean to others, steal things). At age 10, child antisocial behavior was based on 10-items (α = .71) adapted from the Self-report of Delinquency questionnaire (SRD; Elliott, Huizinga, & Ageton, 1985). The SRD is a semi-structured interview that assesses the frequency with which an individual has engaged in delinquent behavior, alcohol and drug use, and related offenses (Elliott et al., 1985). Using a 3-point rating scale (1 = “never”, 2 = “once/twice”, 3 = “more often”), children rated the extent to which they engaged in different types of antisocial behaviors (e.g., stealing, throwing rocks at people, being sent home from school for misbehavior). As this measure was intended for youths aged 11 to 17 and children in the present study were age 10 when completing the SRD, we removed certain substance-use items that would have an extremely low base rate at this age (e.g., intravenous drug use).


Also at ages 8 and 10, children were asked to identify their best friends and to rate the extent to which their best friends engaged in antisocial behavior (e.g., threatened people, gets into fights, drank alcohol). Children used a 3-point rating scale (ranging from “0" = never to “2" = always) to rate the 12 items at age 8 and a 4-point rating scale (ranging from 0 = “never” to 3 = “a lot/always”) to rate the 19 items at age 10. Items for both child-reported measures of best friend antisocial behavior (Pitt Mother & Child Project, 2000) were selected from relevant existing measures, including the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach, 1991) and Self-report of Delinquency questionnaire (Elliott et al., 1985). The best friend antisocial behavior measure displayed adequate internal consistency at both ages (αs = .83 & .85 for ages 8 and 10, respectively).

Children also completed the short forms of the 10-item Multidimensional Anxiety Scale (MAS; March, Parker, Sullivan, Stallings, & Conners, 1997) and the 10-item Child Depression Inventory (CDI; Kovacs, 1992). For the items on the MAS, children were provided with a series of statements indicating anxiety-arousing situations and asked to rate how true each statement was for them (e.g., “I’m afraid that other kids will make fun of me”). These items were summed to form one factor indicative of anxiety symptoms in the children (α = .69). Total scores on the MAS have been shown to display adequate test-retest reliability with mean coefficients of .79 at 3 weeks and .93 at 3 months (March et al., 1997). For the items on the CDI, children were presented with a group of three statements (e.g., “I am sad once in a while”, “I am sad many times”, “I am sad all the time”) and asked to choose the sentence that best described their feelings in the past two weeks. These items were summed to generate one measure indicative of child depressive symptomatology (α = .66). The CDI short form has been found to be significantly correlated with the long form in previous research (r = .89; Kovacs, 1992). In addition, this measure has been shown to have adequate reliability and validity (Kazdin, French, Unis, Esveldt-Dawson, & Sherick, 1983). The total MAS and CDI scores then were standardized and averaged (r = .30; p < .001) to create the final child anxiety/depression score.


Mother-report of the child’s social skills was based on the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS; Gresham & Elliott, 1990). The SSRS is an instrument that provides a broad assessment of the child’s social behaviors that may influence peer acceptance and academic performance. Parents rated the frequency of child behaviors on a three-point scale ranging from "never " to "very often." The SSRS is comprised of four domains: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control. The present study used the total score (sum of cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control), comprising of 38 items (α = .91). The SSRS scale has been shown to demonstrate good reliability and validity (Gresham & Elliott, 1990).

Results

Descriptive Statistics                                       

Descriptive statistics, including mean, standard deviation, range, and skewness, are provided in Table 1. The mean for child antisocial behavior at age 8 was 7.33 with 7.3% of the sample receiving a total score of zero. As normative data for the SRD is based on older children and certain items were deleted for the present administration because of their rarity among 10-year olds, it was not possible to compare scores of the present sample with other 10-year olds. The mean score for mother-reported social skills was 51.19 (SD = 10.11), which was slightly higher than the normative mean for boys at age 10 (49.6, SD = 8.9; Gresham & Elliott, 1990). For child anxiety (MAS), the mean score was 11.47 (SD = 5.52), which was higher than the normative mean for boys aged 8 to 11 years (M = 10.61, SD = 4.92; March et al., 1997).


Intercorrelations (two-tailed) among the variables demonstrated expected patterns of covariation within and between variable domains (see Table 2). In general, the overlap between mother and child individual reports of openness, conflict, and harsh discipline was moderate and significant with the exception of openness (r = .01; ns). In addition, the child adjustment variables at age 10 were modestly to moderately intercorrelated (range r = .12 to .40). The results also indicated that positive synchrony was significantly related to higher levels of mother-reported parent-child openness, parental monitoring, and child social skills, and lower levels of child-reported parent-child conflict, harsh discipline, SIP aggressive responses, age 10 child antisocial behavior, and age 10 best friend antisocial behavior (range r = .21 to .35).

Next, we examined whether there were ethnic differences in the level of mother-child positive synchrony or in the magnitude of correlations between synchrony and the other measures. Child ethnicity was found to be unrelated to observed synchrony (r = -.14; ns). Moreover, the pattern of relations was very similar for both groups with only two out of 14 correlations showing significant differences via z test: Positive synchrony was more strongly associated with parental monitoring among ethnic minorities, r (64) = .39, p < .001, than among European Americans, r (58) = -.05, ns (difference via z test significant at p < .05). In addition, child antisocial behavior at age 8 was more strongly associated with synchrony among ethnic minorities, r (54) = -.44, p < .001, than among European Americans, r (54) = .17, ns (difference via z test significant at .05).

We also examined whether marital status (e.g., married/cohabitating vs. single) was related to the level of positive synchrony or to the magnitude of correlations between synchrony and the other measures. Marital status was unrelated to synchrony (r = .02; ns). In addition, the pattern of relations was very similar between married/cohabitating and single parent-headed families with only two out of 14 correlations showing significant differences via z test: Positive synchrony was more strongly correlated with parental monitoring among single parent families, r (64) = .39, p < .001, than among married/cohabitating families, r (56) = -.01, ns (difference via z test significant at p < .05). Conversely, child-report of harsh discipline was more strongly associated with synchrony among married/cohabitating families, r (54) = -.46, p < .001, than among single parent families, r (63) = -.10, ns (difference via z test significant at .05).


Parent and child reports of parenting and parent-child relationship quality tended to be moderately intercorrelated across informant, including relations among monitoring, harsh discipline, parent-child conflict, and openness (see Table 2). These factors displayed expected patterns of associations with child antisocial behavior, best friend antisocial behavior, child social skills, and children’s internalizing problems. Specifically, children from parent-child relationships marked by high levels of monitoring and openness and low levels of harshness and conflict were better adjusted compared to other children.

In sum, the results indicated that observed positive synchrony was significantly associated with self-report measures tapping characteristics of the dyad. Compared to other dyads, mother-child relationships marked by highly synchronous interactions tended to have higher levels of positive and open communication and lower levels of harsh and conflictual relationships. Morever, children from highly synchronous dyads reported lower levels of child and best friend antisocial behavior and were more socially skilled compared to other children.

Hierarchical Regressions

The results from the bivariate correlations indicated that mother-child synchrony was significantly associated with lower levels of child and best friend antisocial behavior. Next, we examined whether these associations could be accounted for by prior child adjustment or characteristics of the child, parent, or parent-child relationship. A series of hierarchical regressions was computed where age 10 child adjustment (child antisocial behavior or best friend antisocial behavior) was predicted by an alternative variable (e.g., parent-child openness) (Step 1) and observed mother-child positive synchrony (Step 2). As reported earlier, both mothers and children provided information on openness, conflict, and harsh discipline. However, because mother- and child-reports of these measures displayed differential patterns of association with synchrony (see Table 2), we decided to examine them separately instead of combining them. Thus, when mother- and child-reports of a particular construct were available, both measures were entered separately and simultaneously on Step 1.

 


In the first regression, we examined the link between positive synchrony and child antisocial behavior at age 10 after controlling for age 8 child antisocial behavior (see Table 3). The results indicated that age 8 antisocial behavior explained a significant percentage of variance in age 10 antisocial behavior, and that positive synchrony remained a significant and unique predictor of child antisocial behavior after controlling for prior child behavior. Next, we examined whether positive synchrony predicted best friend antisocial behavior after controlling for earlier friend behavior. The measure of best friend antisocial behavior at age 8 explained a significant percentage of variance in age 10 friend behavior. Moreover, the association between synchrony and friend antisocial behavior at age 10 was still significant after partialling out the variance explained by age 8 friend behavior.


As indicated in Table 3, mother- and child-reported relationship openness explained a significant percentage of variance in child and friend antisocial behavior. However, only mother-reported openness was significant in both regressions. After partialling out the variance explained by mother-child openness, synchrony remained a significant predictor of friend behavior and marginally related to child behavior. Turning to parent-child conflict, mother-reported conflict was significantly related to child antisocial behavior, whereas child-reported conflict was only marginally associated with child behavior. Both mother- and child-reports of conflict were unrelated to best friend antisocial behavior. Observed mother-child positive synchrony, entered on Step 2, was found to independently predict child and friend behavior. Mother and child reports of harsh discipline were both associated with lower levels of child antisocial behavior. However, only child-reported harsh discipline was related to best friend behavior. After controlling for harsh discipline, positive synchrony remained significantly associated with both dependent variables. As indicated in Table 3, parental monitoring was significantly associated with child antisocial behavior and marginally associated with best friend antisocial behavior. After controlling for the variance explained by parental monitoring, positive synchrony was a unique predictor of both child and friend behavior. Child report of aggressive response decisions was related to higher levels of child antisocial behavior but was unrelated to friend behavior. Furthermore, the results indicated that synchrony was significantly related to child antisocial behavior and best friend antisocial behavior after controlling for child SIP.

In general, the results indicated that observed mother-child synchrony remained a significant predictor of both child and best friend antisocial behavior after partialling out the variance explained by prior adjustment and characteristics of the child, parent, and parent-child relationship.

Discussion

The purpose of the present investigation was to examine mother-child positive synchrony during middle childhood and its link to child and best friend antisocial behavior. The results indicated that dyads characterized by highly synchronous interactions reported higher levels of parent-child openness and monitoring and lower levels of parent-child conflict, harsh discipline, and children’s aggressive SIP compared to other dyads. In addition, children from highly synchronous dyads reported engaging in lower levels of child and best friend antisocial compared to other children. Positive synchrony also was significantly associated with higher levels of child social skills. In general, the links between positive synchrony and child and friend behavior remained significant after controlling for earlier antisocial behavior and characteristics of the child, parent, and parent-child dyad. Globally, the findings suggest that positive synchrony may have implications for antisocial behavior and affiliation with deviant friends in middle childhood.

Overlap Between Positive Synchrony and Measures of Parent-Child Dyad


The results from the present study converge with those from previous investigations (e.g., Kochanska, 1997; Mize & Pettit, 1997) in demonstrating a link between mother-child mutual responsiveness and other aspects of their relationship. Mothers from dyads characterized by highly synchronous interactions reported that they were more in tune with the children’s emotional needs and overall had highly favorable relationships with their children. It is possible that positive synchrony functions as a relationship builder and enhances the quality of the mother-child relationship (Harrist & Waugh, in press). Through frequent mutually responsive and attentive interactions, the parent and child may develop a closer bond to one other (Isabella, Belsky, & von Eye, 1989; Isabella & Belsky, 1991) and may enjoy just spending time with each other more than less synchronous dyads (Mize & Pettit, 1997).

The findings also indicated that observed mother-child positive synchrony was associated with higher levels of monitoring, suggesting that the process of monitoring may be facilitated in dyads marked by mutual focus and responsiveness. It is likely that the flow of communication is easier in highly synchronous dyads. When members of the dyad are both engaged in the conversation, on task, and taking turns speaking, characteristics of highly synchronous interaction, the flow of information from child to parent likely would be enhanced. Indeed, a number of researchers have argued that a balanced and positive parent-child relationship is likely to promote parent-child communication (Dishion & McMahon, 1998; Stattin & Kerr, 2000). Relatedly, it is probable that the moderate correlation between positive synchrony and monitoring may be accounted for by parental involvement, an attribute that is likely to be important for maintaining high levels of parental monitoring and highly synchronous interactions with children.


The results also indicated that children from highly synchronous dyads reported lower levels of conflict and harsh parenting. These results are in accordance with previous studies, primarily with younger children, linking mother-child mutual responsiveness to lower levels of coercive discipline strategies (Kochanska, 1997; Kochanska & Murray, 2000). As Kochanska (1997) has argued, it is possible that through a history of mutually responsive and attentive parent-child interactions, the mother learns that the child’s acquiescence to her demands can be gained through gentle persuasion rather than through physical coercion. Likewise, synchronous mother-child dyads may have a more intimate understanding of each other’s needs and feelings, making the negotiation of interpersonal conflicts and the use disciplinary action easier than in other dyads.

The correlations also indicated a significant association between positive synchrony and children’s social information processing. In particular, children from dyads marked by synchronous interactions were less likely than other children to endorse aggressive behavioral strategies in response to hypothetical peer conflicts. Consistent with attachment theory, children who experience synchronous interactions with their mothers may develop more trustworthy and prosocial schemata of the world (Isabella & Belsky, 1991; Isabella et al., 1989), as reflected by positive relationships with teachers (Ingoldsby et al., 2001) and peers (Fagot, 1997).

Association between Positive Synchrony and Child Adjustment


In the present investigation, mother-child positive synchrony was significantly related to lower levels of child and best friend antisocial behavior in middle childhood. These findings are parallel to previous studies conducted with preschool-age children (Feldman et al., 1999; Harrist et al., 1994; Mize & Pettit, 1997). An important issue meriting attention is why positive synchrony is associated with lower levels of child and friend behavior. It is conceivable that during middle childhood positive synchrony serves as a form of behavioral regulation. A number of researchers have argued that parents must teach their children the culturally-proscribed rules and regulations required to become competent members of society (Barber, Olsen, & Shagle, 1994; Pettit et al., 2001). However, with children’s entry into school, they are spending more time out of direct parental supervision and are being exposed to new environments and situations. Therefore, child compliance to family rules regarding appropriate behavior and friends may be essential at this age, and positive synchrony may be one way of securing compliance. Specifically, children from parent-child dyads characterized by high levels of mutual focus and responsiveness may be more open to parental socialization and teachings (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Kochanska, 1997; Shaw & Bell, 1993; Sroufe, 1983). As such, these children may be less likely to engage in antisocial behavior and affiliate with deviant peers, assuming that such behavior is discouraged in these families. In effect, positive synchrony may facilitate self-regulation in children. Indeed, in their review of the synchrony literature, Harrist and Waugh (in press) speculate that through experiencing highly synchronous interactions, children may be able to learn to properly balance other-control (i.e., compliance to parental demands) and self-control. This transitory period where behavioral regulatory responsibilities gradually shift from parent to child, referred to as coregulation (Maccoby, 1984b), may be expedited in highly synchronous dyads.

In accordance with the findings from previous investigations (Harrist et al., 1994; Mize & Pettit, 1997), we also found that children from highly synchronous dyads were more socially skilled compared to other children. It is possible that just as positive synchrony serves to regulate children’s antisocial behavior, it may serve a similar function with respect to children’s prosocial behavior. It is also likely that mutually responsive and balanced mother-child interactions may provide children with opportunities to practice their social skills (Mize & Pettit, 1997; Russell et al., 1998). Russell and colleagues (1998) argued that horizontal (i.e., balanced) qualities in parent child relationships – which would be evident in highly synchronous interactions – could offer children the opportunity to practice and refine these skills.


While positive synchrony was significantly related to antisocial behavior and social skills, it was unrelated to child’s reports of internalizing symptomatology. It is possible that positive parent-child interactional styles (e.g., positive synchrony) may function more in the regulation of children’s external behavior, whereas negative parent-child interactional styles (e.g., Patterson’s coercion model; Patterson et al., 1992) may be more salient in the regulation of children’s internal states. The extant literature provides support for this possibility. First, Harrist et al. (1994) found that while negative synchrony (e.g., reciprocal and focused interactions with a hostile tone) was significantly associated with child aggression and withdrawn symptoms, positive synchrony (e.g., reciprocal and focused interactions with a positive tone) was linked to child aggression but not internalizing problems. Second, monitoring, another parental tool involved in the regulation of child antisocial behavior (Barber et al., 1994; Steinberg, 1990), has been found to be more consistently related to child externalizing than internalizing problems (see Dishion & McMahon, 1998 for review) – a pattern that also was found in the present study. Thus, it is possible that the link between synchrony and child well-being may be depend on the affective content of the interaction (i.e., positive/warm vs. hostile/coercive) and may be specific to a particular child adjustment domain.

Positive Synchrony as an Independent Predictor of Antisocial Behavior


In the next set of analyses, we examined whether observed mother-child positive synchrony remained a significant and independent predictor of child and best friend antisocial behavior after controlling for characteristics of the child, parent, parent-child relationship and prior child adjustment. In general, the results indicated that positive synchrony remained a significant predictor of child and friend behavior after accounting for the alternative variables. The findings demonstrate the independent contribution of positive synchrony in middle childhood and replicate the findings of other studies with younger children (e.g., Feldman et al., 1999; Mize & Pettit, 1997). However, the analyses did indicate that the link between positive synchrony and antisocial behavior, in part, can be explained by the level of openness in the parent-child relationship. If child compliance to parental rules requires the induction of the child into a system of reciprocity, as some authors have speculated (Kochanska, 1997; Maccoby, 1992), these findings indicate that maintaining a parent-child relationship marked by clear and honest communication may be especially critical for the development of a reciprocal parent-child relationship. Likewise, the results suggest that positive synchrony may be less salient as a predictor of child antisocial behavior if there is also not some depth to the relationship (e.g., openness).

Involvement of Synchrony in the Socialization Process

An important issue to be addressed concerns the interplay between positive synchrony and other parenting practices in the socialization process. Mize and Pettit (1997) postulated that the interplay between parenting styles (e.g., synchrony) and parenting practices (e.g., coaching) may be best conceptualized in one of four ways. First, stylistic qualities of parent-child interaction may moderate the association between parenting practices and child adjustment (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). For instance, high levels of positive synchrony may compensate for a lack of parental monitoring or for low levels of parent-child openness. Second, parenting style and practices may be redundant predictors of child behavioral adjustment. In other words, parenting style or practices may not explain any additional variance in child adjustment after controlling for the alternative parenting component. Alternatively, it is possible that parenting practices may mediate the link between parenting style and child adjustment. For example, high level of positive synchrony may lead to more effective parent-child communication and monitoring, which in turn would lead to lower levels of child antisocial behavior. Finally, both parenting style and practices may make unique, additive contributions in the prediction of child adjustment. This would indicate that both style and practice are important in the socialization process. In general, support for the last model was found in the present study: in most instances, both positive synchrony and other attributes of the parent-child relationship were significant predictors of antisocial behavior when examined concomitantly.1

Conclusions, Limitations, and Future Directions


In the present investigation, positive synchrony was rated during a conflict resolution task involving mothers and their 10-year-old sons. Clearly, the findings from this study need to be replicated at this age in other samples with special attention to the limitations of the present investigation. First, the target children in the present study provided information on best friend antisocial behavior. It would have been preferable to have these data gathered from the child’s friends themselves, as the target child may not have been completely knowledgeable of their friend’s behavior or unbiased in their perceptions. Second, although positive synchrony was found to be a predictor of antisocial behavior in the present low, income, ethnically diverse sample, it would be important to examine this construct in more heterogeneous samples. Specifically, it is possible that positive synchrony may serve a different capacity in families from other ethnic groups (e.g., Hispanic, Asian-American) or in homes with different family structures. Although we found no significant differences in the link between positive synchrony and antisocial behavior when comparing European American and ethnic minorities (and married/cohabitating vs. single parent families), the synchrony literature is generally characterized by samples of predominantly married, European American families. Clearly, the inclusion of more diverse samples is warranted. Relatedly, we acknowledge that the findings from the present investigation can be generalized to only mother-son relationships. Future research needs to examine positive synchrony at this age with parent-child dyads that also include fathers (and daughters), since fathers may play an important and perhaps unique role in the socialization of their children (see Lamb, 1997 for review of literature on father-child relationships). Third, we recognize that some of the child outcome variables, most notably friend antisocial behavior (age 10) and internalizing symptomatology, were somewhat skewed. It is possible that the findings were influenced by the distribution of these variables.


It is acknowledged that the measures of positive synchrony and antisocial behavior were assessed concurrently. As such, firm conclusions regarding the directionality of the positive synchrony-antisocial behavior link cannot be ascertained based on these data and analyses. While high levels of positive synchrony may lead to lower levels of antisocial behavior, it is just as equally possible that negative child attributes may impinge on the level of synchrony. Indeed, we found that age 8 child antisocial behavior was marginally associated with lower levels of positive synchrony. Alternatively, it is possible that a third variable, such as child and parent emotion regulation or verbal skills, may be responsible for the link between positive synchrony and antisocial behavior. Clearly, further research is needed to address these issues.

Due to the lack of longitudinal research in the synchrony literature, a number of key developmental issues remain to be addressed. For instance, does the level and form of positive synchrony change with age? A number of researchers have argued that as children grow older, the nature of the parent-child relationship is transformed from one of unilateral authority to mutual cooperation (Paikoff & Brooks-Gunn, 1991; Russell et al., 1998; Steinberg, 1990; Youniss & Smollar, 1985), and that “horizontal” or balanced qualities become the defining features of parent-child relationships (Hartup, 1989; Russell et al., 1998). With such a transformation in the parent-child relationship, would one find a comparable transformation in positive synchrony? Harrist and Waugh (in press) speculated that as children’s cognitive capabilities increase with age, parent-child interaction becomes more balanced as children take an increasingly larger role in guiding conversations. Longitudinal research is needed to detect possible shifts in the balance of parent-child interactions and to examine individual trajectories in positive synchrony across childhood and adolescence.

In conclusion, the purpose of the present investigation was to examine mother-child positive synchrony in families with 10-year-old children and its link to child and best friend antisocial behavior. The results indicated modest to moderate overlap between positive synchrony and other aspects of the parent-relationship, namely openness, conflict, harsh discipline, monitoring, and children’s SIP. Morever, positive synchrony was found to be a significant predictor of child and friend behavior after controlling for other characteristics of the child, parent, and parent-child relationship as well as prior child adjustment.


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Footnotes

1. We also entered the interaction between positive synchrony and an alternative variable (e.g., parental monitoring, SIP) on Step 3 of each regression. Because none of the interactions were significant predictors of child antisocial behavior or best friend antisocial behavior, we decided to exclude them from the final analyses.


Table 1

Descriptive statistics

 

 

 

N

 

Mean

 

SD

 

Minimum

 

Maximum

 

Skewness

 

1. Positive Synchrony (O)

 

122

 

4.04

 

1.85

 

1

 

8

 

1.85

 

2. Parent-child Openness (M)

 

112

 

21.48

 

3.36

 

11

 

25

 

-1.06

 

3. Parent-child Openness (C)

 

120

 

14.90

 

3.70

 

5

 

20

 

-.45

 

4. Parent-child Conflict (M)

 

112

 

21.47

 

8.25

 

10

 

48

 

.77

 

5. Parent-child Conflict (C)

 

120

 

21.47

 

7.61

 

9

 

45

 

.22

 

6. Parental Monitoring (M)a

 

120

 

.00

 

.46

 

-1.37

 

1.08

 

-.76

 

7. Harsh Discipline (M)a

 

119

 

-.02

 

.63

 

-1.90

 

1.30

 

-.13

 

8. Harsh Discipline (C)

 

118

 

6.56

 

2.43

 

3

 

15

 

1.36

 

9. SIP Aggressive Response Decisions (C)

 

116

 

.73

 

.61

 

0

 

2.63

 

.90

 

10. Child Antisocial Behavior - Age 8 (C)

 

109

 

7.33

 

6.60

 

0

 

33

 

1.81

 

11. Child Antisocial Behavior  - Age 10 (C)

 

121

 

1.76

 

2.47

 

0

 

10

 

1.94

 

12. Best Friend Antisocial Behavior - Age 8 (C)

 

96

 

4.17

 

3.98

 

0

 

17

 

1.08

 

12. Best Friend Antisocial Behavior - Age 10 (C)

 

114

 

3.21

 

5.18

 

0

 

29

 

2.91

 

13. Child Social Skills (M)

 

111

 

51.19

 

10.11

 

23

 

74

 

-.27

 

14. Child Anxiety/Depression (C)

 

119

 

.01

 

.87

 

-1.32

 

3.22

 

1.32

 

             Child Depression (C)

 

119

 

1.61

 

2.45

 

0

 

12

 

2.40

 

             Child Anxiety (C)

 

119

 

11.37

 

5.52

 

0

 

30

 

.48

Table 1 continues


Table 1 (continued)

Note:

O = Observed, M = Mother-reported, C = Child-reported

a = Items were standardized before computing the final composite score.


Table 2

Bivariate correlations

 

 

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

6

 

7

 

8

 

9

 

10

 

1. Positive Synchrony (O)

 

.35***

 

.07  

 

-.18+ 

 

-.28***

 

.24* 

 

-.13  

 

-.26**

 

-.21* 

 

-.17+ 

 

2. Parent-child Openness (M)

 

 

 

.01  

 

-.46***

 

-.25**

 

.33***

 

-.26**

 

-.29**

 

-.04  

 

-.12   

 

3. Parent-child Openness (C)

 

 

 

 

 

-.10  

 

-.32***

 

.04  

 

-.02  

 

-.11  

 

-.14  

 

-.06  

 

4. Parent-child Conflict (M)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.40***

 

-.25**

 

.43***

 

.33***

 

-.09  

 

.05  

 

5. Parent-child Conflict (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-.28**

 

.16+ 

 

.40***

 

.08  

 

.29**

 

6. Parental Monitoring (M)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-.20* 

 

-.11  

 

-.04  

 

-.18+ 

 

7. Harsh Discipline (M)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.31***

 

-.16+ 

 

.12  

 

8. Harsh Discipline (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.09  

 

.17+ 

 

9. SIP Aggressive Response Decisions (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.17+ 

 

10. Child Antisocial Behavior - Age 8 (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Child Antisocial Behavior  - Age 10 (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. Best Friend Antisocial behavior - Age 8 (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Best Friend Antisocial behavior  - Age 10 (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Child Social Skills (M)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. Child Anxiety/Depression (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2 continues


Table 2 (continued)

 

 

 

11

 

12

 

13

 

14

 

15

 

1. Positive Synchrony (O)

 

-.28**

 

-.10  

 

-.33***

 

.28**

 

-.06  

 

2. Parent-child Openness (M)

 

-.36***

 

-.11  

 

-.39***

 

.56***

 

-.26**

 

3. Parent-child Openness (C)

 

-.03  

 

.03  

 

.10  

 

.07  

 

-.07  

 

4. Parent-child Conflict (M)

 

.31***

 

.24* 

 

.02  

 

-.57***

 

.13  

 

5. Parent-child Conflict (C)

 

.28**

 

.13  

 

.09  

 

-.32***

 

.21* 

 

6. Parental Monitoring (M)

 

-.33***

 

-.07  

 

-.17+ 

 

.32***

 

-.06   

 

7. Harsh Discipline (M)

 

.37***

 

.24* 

 

.10  

 

-.43***

 

.07  

 

8. Harsh Discipline (C)

 

.35***

 

.17+ 

 

.27**

 

-.33***

 

.23* 

 

9. SIP Aggressive Response Decisions (C)

 

.26**

 

-.10  

 

.20  

 

.03***

 

.10  

 

10. Child Antisocial Behavior  - Age 8 (C)

 

.34***

 

.42***

 

.18+ 

 

-.12  

 

.01  

 

11. Child Antisocial Behavior  - Age 10 (C)

 

 

 

.18+ 

 

.33***

 

-.21+ 

 

.12  

 

12. Best Friend Antisocial behavior - Age 8 (C)

 

 

 

 

 

.33***

 

-.21+ 

 

.12  

 

13. Best Friend Antisocial behavior - Age 10 (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-.23***

 

.15  

 

14. Child Social Skills (M)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-.26***

 

15. Child Anxiety/Depression (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: ***p < .001; **p < .01; *p < .05; +p < .10

O = Observed, M = Mother-reported, C = Child-reported

Ns ranged from 104 to 120


Table 3

Hierarchical regressions examining synchrony as a unique predictor of child antisocial behavior

and best friend antisocial behavior

 

 

 

 

 

Antisocial Behavior (C)

 

Best Friend

Antisocial Behavior (C)

 

Step

 

Predictor

 

Beta

 

ΔR2

 

Beta

 

ΔR2

 

1

 

Antisocial Behavior - Age 8 (C)a

 

.34***

 

.12***

 

.33***

 

.11***

 

2

 

Positive Synchrony (O)

 

-.18* 

 

.03* 

 

-.30**

 

.09**

 

1

 

Parent-Child Openness (M)

 

-.36***

 

.13***

 

-.40***

 

.17***

 

 

 

Parent-Child Openness (C)

 

.01  

 

 

 

.13  

 

 

 

2

 

Positive Synchrony (O)

 

-.18+ 

 

.03+ 

 

-.26**

 

.06**

 

1

 

Parent-Child Conflict (M)

 

.23* 

 

.12***

 

-.02  

 

.01  

 

 

 

Parent-Child Conflict (C)

 

.19+ 

 

 

 

.09  

 

 

 

2

 

Positive Synchrony (O)

 

-.21* 

 

.04* 

 

-.37***

 

.13***

 

1

 

Harsh Discipline (M)

 

.29**

 

.19***

 

.03  

 

.07* 

 

 

 

Harsh Discipline (C)

 

.25**

 

 

 

.25**

 

 

 

2

 

Positive Synchrony (O)

 

-.18* 

 

.03* 

 

-.28**

 

.07**

 

1

 

Parental Monitoring (M)

 

-.32***

 

.10***

 

-.17+ 

 

.03+ 

 

2

 

Positive Synchrony (O)

 

-.21* 

 

.04* 

 

-.30**

 

.08**

 

1

 

Child Aggressive Response Decisions (C)

 

.25**

 

.06**

 

.01  

 

.00  

 

2

 

Positive Synchrony (O)

 

-.22* 

 

.05* 

 

-.34***

 

.11***

Note: ***p < .001; **p < .01; *p < .05; +p < .10

Ns ranged from 105 to 119

O = Observed, M = Mother-reported, C = Child-reported

a = Age 8 child antisocial behavior was entered on step one in the prediction of age 10 child antisocial behavior as the dependent variable. Age 8 best friend antisocial behavior was entered in the regression with age 10 friend antisocial behavior as the dependent variable.


Appendix A

Anchor Points for Observational Ratings of Positive Synchrony

1 =       Both partners are in the room, but are engaged in different or parallel activities with no interaction. One person is completely disengaged from the task or one partner totally dominates the interaction.

2 =       Partners interact, but don’t seem to be on the same wave-length. The dyad members talk but they do not have a shared focus throughout the majority of the 8-minute segment. The partners do not make eye contact or share affect.

3 =       There is eye contact, but there is very little mutual responsiveness. For instance, a partner abruptly interrupts ongoing interaction a majority of times during the segment.

4 =       The segment looks fairly synchronous, but there are one or more notable, obvious miscues. Also, the partners are focused on the materials themselves rather than on each other. The partners have the same focus, but one is dominating and the other following for the majority of the segment.

5 =       Partners are engaged in the same activity and have a joint focus through the majority of the segment. Both partners must be responsive to each other, noticing cues and responding with at least minimal appropriateness. There often is some balance and mutuality in the leading and following, but not perfect balance. That is, both partners may make suggestions and receive positive responses.

6 =       Partners are engaged in the same activity, and there is some balance and mutuality in leading, following, and responsiveness throughout the segment. There must be at least some eye contact or some shared affect (e.g., looking at each other and laughing; both looking surprised at a topic), but it need not be for the whole period. There may be a couple inconsequential miscues.

 


7 =       Partners are engaged in the same activity and there is considerable balance and mutuality in leading, following, and responsiveness throughout the segment. There must be considerable eye contact or shared affect (e.g., looking at each other and laughing), but it need not be for the whole period. Any miscues seem inconsequential or trivial in the context of the interaction.

8 =       Partners are engaged in the same activity, are mutually responsive to one another, mutually balanced in offering leads and following leads, have equal responsibility for maintaining the interaction and share affect and/or make eye contact a good bit. Minor miscues occur but seem inconsequential.

9 =       Partners are engaged in the same activity, are mutually responsive to one another, mutually balanced in offering leads and following leads, have equal responsibility for maintaining the interaction and share affect and/or make eye contact a good bit throughout the segment. Even minor miscues do not occur.