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Psychological reactance and negative emotional reactions in the link between psychological control and adolescent adjustment

Abstract Researchers consistently report links between psychological control and adolescent behavior problems, but the processes linking psychological control with behavior problems are unclear. Adolescents’ negative emotional reactions and psychological reactance were tested as potential longitudinal mediators linking parental psychological control with both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Data were collected from a sample of 242 adolescents (M age = 15.4 at Time 1; 50.8% female; 50% white, non‐Hispanic, 18% African American, 16% Hispanic, and 16% of other or multiple ethnicities) at three time points over a 2‐year period. Adolescents self‐reported depressive symptoms, antisocial behavior, negative emotional reactions, and psychological reactance. Adolescents and their parents provided ratings of parental psychological control. Cross‐sectional models replicated patterns previously reported suggesting that negative emotional reactions and reactance mediate between psychological control and internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. However, in cross‐lagged panel models, neither negative emotional reactions nor reactance emerged as a mediator between psychological control and internalizing or externalizing problems. In contrast, results suggested that psychological control is an outcome of rather than contributor to, negative emotional reactions. Moreover, the addition of random intercepts to cross‐lagged models indicated that associations between psychological control, emotional and behavioral reactions, and internalizing/externalizing behavior may represent stable trait‐like patterns.

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