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The relation between children's task‐specific competence and mothers' controlling practices

Abstract

In the guided learning domain of socialization, studies examining the antecedents of controlling parenting suggest that children's lack of competence in a task could trigger controlling practices in that task. However, a stringent test of this relation remains to be conducted. This study examined this relation using a sample of 101 children (Mage = 10.21 years) and their mothers, a standardized measure of children's competence in a task that was unfamiliar to the participants, and multi‐informant observational measures of maternal controlling practices during a mother–child interaction involving that task (rated by an independent coder and the children). Path analyses showed that children's initial lack of competence in a task was related to higher levels of coded maternal controlling practices during a subsequent mother–child interaction involving that task, which in turn were positively linked to children's perceptions of their mothers' practices as controlling. A bootstrap analysis also confirmed that the indirect link from children's competence to perceived maternal controlling practices through coded maternal controlling practices was significant. These effects were observed while controlling for mothers' self‐reported controlling parenting style and perceptions of their children's academic skills. Implications of these findings for the promotion of optimal parenting and future research directions are discussed.

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