Parenting and attachment: an examination of mediation and moderation in the prediction of adolescent psychopathology

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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The current study investigated relationships between dimensions of parenting style (acceptance, behavioral control, permissiveness, psychological control) and youth attachment security (avoidance, anxiety) in the prediction of adolescent psychopathology. A series of moderation and mediation models, ranging in complexity, were tested and compared in a sample of at-risk youth (101 males, 85 females, ages 11 to 17). Conditional moderation of maternal acceptance was supported; specifically, results suggest that when youth attachment avoidance and anxiety are both high (consistent with a Fearful attachment style), maternal acceptance predicts significantly fewer externalizing symptoms. Subsequent analyses of simple mediation revealed that attachment avoidance (1) mediated maternal acceptance, and (2) partially mediated maternal psychological control, in the prediction of internalizing symptoms. These findings suggest that associations between maternal acceptance/psychological control and internalizing symptoms are explained, at least in part, by the youth’s avoidant attachment strategies in response to negative parenting behaviors. Finally, analyses of moderated mediation provided marginal evidence that simple mediation of parenting by one major attachment dimension (e.g., anxiety) depends on concurrent levels of the second attachment dimension (e.g., avoidance). Findings suggest that more complex models of youth attachment-parenting dynamics, integrating mediation and moderation effects, are required to understand the development of psychopathology and to create effective intervention strategies.
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