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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

David Arnold, Ph.D.

Subject Categories

Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Child Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Mental Disorders | Psychological Phenomena and Processes


Conduct disorder (CD) symptoms emerge in preschool children, and some evidence for bidirectional effects between maternal parenting behaviors and these symptoms has been found in school-age children and adolescents. However, the strength and pattern of these effects are unknown during the preschool years. The present study examined the bidirectional relationships between several key maternal parenting behaviors (negative affect, warmth, overreactivity, and laxness) and CD symptoms across the preschool years. Participants were 197 preschool children (M = 44.24 months, SD = 3.37; Girls = 92) exhibiting significant behavior problems and their mothers who participated in a 3-year longitudinal study. Maternal parenting behaviors were assessed annually through self-report and observational measures, while mothers reported CD symptoms via structured interviews. As expected, CD symptoms were found to be stable during the preschool years. Only maternal self-reported overreactivity was concurrently correlated with CD symptoms. With regards to bidirectional relationships, CD symptoms only predicted a decrease in maternal warmth, and there was no evidence of mother-to-child effects in our models. The stability of CD symptoms provide support for the validity of early CD and results raise questions about the direct role of maternal parenting in the development of this disorder during the preschool years.