From Negative Emotionality to Aggressive Behavior: Maternal and Paternal Parenting Stress as Intervening Factors



Bernier A, Marquis-Brideau C, Dusablon C, Lemelin J-P, Sirois MS. (2021). From Negative Emotionality to Aggressive Behavior: Maternal and Paternal Parenting Stress as Intervening Factors. Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, 1-11.


Child temperament plays a key role in the development of psychopathology, notably through transactions with the family environment. In particular, temperamental negative emotionality is a documented antecedent of child aggressive behavior, with parenting stress sometimes proposed to play a mediating role in this association. However, research has mostly addressed bivariate associations and seldom considered the full chain linking child negative emotionality to aggression through parenting stress. In addition, most relevant studies have focused on mothers; therefore, possible combined contributions of maternal and paternal stress, such as interactive effects, are under-investigated. Addressing these gaps, this longitudinal multi-informant study aimed to examine the mediating role of maternal parenting stress, paternal parenting stress, and their interaction in the association between infant negative emotionality and child aggression. Among 186 mostly White middle-class families (98 boys), infant negative emotionality was reported by mothers and fathers at 15 months, both parents reported on their own parenting stress at 3 years, and child aggression was assessed by teachers in the first grade of elementary school. The results revealed a moderated mediated pathway, such that there was a significant indirect effect of child negative emotionality on aggression through paternal stress, however only when maternal stress was also high. These findings suggest that the risk of negative emotionality translating to aggressive behavior is magnified when both parents experience high levels of stress in their parenting role. The results also underscore that both parents play significant yet different roles in the process linking early negative emotionality to subsequent aggression.