The relationship between a mother and her child is a complex and continually changing one. When children are born, they are completely dependent on their mothers for everything. As they age, they begin to assert their own desires and personality traits manifest. Mothers’ personality traits also impact the relationship and can be additionally influenced by external stressors, such as financial limitations and family tension. In a recent study, Grazyna Kochanska of the Department of Psychology at the University of Iowa assessed how socioeconomic stress and child behavior affected the mother-child relationship and how the Big Five personality traits of neuroticism, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and openness were moderated by these stressors.
Kochanska assessed 186 mothers and their toddlers, all from low-income environments. The dyads were studied in highly stressful situations and non-stress-inducing situations and the children were classified as easy (cooperative) or difficult (defiant). The results revealed that when children were difficult, extroverted mothers tried to assert more power. Kochanska believes that the aggressive behavior in children may trigger dominant behavior in the mothers, leading them to assert more control in difficult situations. This same effect was found in the neurotic mothers. But mothers high in conscientiousness demonstrated less control when their children were behaving defiantly. These associations did not exist in the mothers of easy children. This finding suggests that conscientiousness serves as a catalyst for more adaptive and productive coping strategies.
The study also revealed some interesting findings in the absence of stressors. Open mothers demonstrated more maternal warmth and positive parenting practices than the open mothers under stress. Likewise, the mothers with highly agreeable personalities had high levels of positive parenting and warmth. These mothers also demonstrated positive behaviors when under financial stress, but not when dealing with unruly children. Kochanska notes that these results reveal two unique relationships between stress and parenting. First, chronic stress from financial or family conditions can deplete resources needed for maternal warmth and responsiveness. “By contrast, more immediate stress due to the child’s aversive, angry resistance is, not surprisingly, strongly linked to the mother’s forceful, power-assertive discipline,” said Kochanska. Regardless of which type of stress is present, more work needs to be done to further examine the negative impact of these stressors on parenting.
Kochanska, Grazyna, Sanghag Kim, and Jamie Koenig Nordling. Challenging circumstances moderate the links between mothers’ personality traits and their parenting in low-income families with young children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103.6 (2012): 1040-049. Print.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.