Mother-child attachment, children's temperament play a role in terrible 2 conflicts

Mar 25, 2008

Stories about the “terrible twos” abound in parenting lore. New research published in the March/April 2008 issue of the journal Child Development finds that the way mothers and their 2-year-olds relate to each other affects the quality but not the frequency of conflicts when children are two, and that children’s temperament also plays a role.

Researchers at Lehigh University and the University of California-Davis recruited 60 mothers and their children through birth announcements in local newspapers, then observed them in two sessions: one 50-minute lab visit when the children were 30 months old, and one 90-minute home visit when the children were 36 months.

During each observation, the researchers looked at all episodes of conflict, and examined whether they contained compromise, justification, or aggravation (i.e., simple insistence without explanation or threats) by both mothers and children. They also examined whether the conflicts were resolved. Mothers provided information about the children’s temperament and attachment security, or the degree of trust that children have in their mothers’ responsiveness and availability.

The study found that mother-child conflict during both observations was frequent (about 20 times an hour), and there was a lot of variation in the frequency of conflict (from as many as 55 times an hour to as few as 5 times an hour) and in the quality of conflict between mothers and children.

Furthermore, children’s temperament was related to the frequency and quality of conflict, that is, children who were highly active and who had problems controlling their behavior had more conflict with mothers than less active children and children who did not have trouble controlling their behavior. In addition, highly active children and children who frequently and intensely experienced negative emotions had less constructive conflict with their mothers, involving less resolution, more aggravation, and less justification, than children who did not have these qualities.

Attachment security was not related to the frequency of conflict between mothers and their children, but to the quality, the study found. Mothers and children who had secure relationships had constructive conflict involving high levels of resolution, compromise, and justification. In sum, both the quality of children’s relationships with their mothers and children’s personality types were found to shape the nature of conflict between mothers and their children at age two.

“Children with difficult temperaments tend to have more frequent and less constructive conflict with mothers,” according to Deborah Laible, associate professor of psychology at Lehigh University and the lead author of the study. “High-quality relationships between mothers and children were associated with more constructive conflict between mothers and children. In secure relationships, both mothers and children seem committed to maintaining relational harmony by resolving conflict, compromising, and justifying their side of an argument.”

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Explore further: Continued reliance on Windows XP in physician practices may threaten data security

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

55 minutes ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Up in arms

Jan 28, 2014

In December 2012, when Adam Lanza stormed into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with a rifle and killed 20 children and six adult staff members, the United States found itself immersed ...

Online game addiction law divides SKorea

Dec 11, 2013

A law under consideration in South Korea's parliament has sparked vociferous debate by grouping popular online games such as "StarCraft" with gambling, drugs and alcohol as an anti-social addiction the government ...

Turbulent nature of menopause triggered by gene battles

Dec 10, 2013

The hormonal mayhem, reduced fertility and hot flushes experienced by a woman in the run up to menopause may owe to warfare between her own genes, according to a team of scientists working in the United Kingdom ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

New pain relief targets discovered

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...