Testing the association between the early parent–child relationship and teacher reported socio-emotional difficulties at 11 years: a quantile mediation analysis

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This paper investigates the strength of association behind well documented links between early parenting factors and later adolescent mental health problems. It goes on to consider the role of language skills at school entry in mediating those links.

The research makes use of from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) to look into the first three years of parents’ beliefs about how best to parent and their parent-child relationship. It goes on to look at their association with teacher reports of socio-emotional development when the child is 11 and to consider the role that better language skills at school entry might have in reducing any difficulties.

In the main no direct link was found between parents who reported an unstructured and ‘laissez-faire’ approach to parenting and difficulties later on.

There was a direct link between poorer quality parent-child relationships at age 3 and socio-emotional difficulties at age 11. Vocabulary skills only played a minor mediating role in this relationship, with stronger language effects being found for children with higher levels of mental health problems.

The researchers conclude that the long term effects of parents’ attitudes and behaviour remain pronounced throughout early childhood and that their methods and models for testing how difficulties emerge later on are novel and robust, adding to our understanding of these relationships.