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A prospective study of adolescent mothers’ social competence, children's effortful control and compliance and children's subsequent developmental outcomes

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Social Development

Published online on


Previous work has established that caregiver and child temperamental characteristics are associated with child compliance. Given the critical role that parents play in this process, and that children of teen mothers are at risk for poorer developmental outcomes, it is important to understand the development of compliance in the context of at‐risk parenting such as adolescent motherhood. The current study examined child compliance (Wave 5; W5) as a mediator of the association between adolescent mothers’ social competence (Wave 4; W4) and children's behavioral and academic outcomes (Wave 6; W6), and whether this mediation varied depending on children's effortful control (W4) in a sample of 204 Mexican‐origin adolescent mothers (Mage at W4 = 19.94, SD = .99) and their children (Mage at W4 = 36.21 months, SD = .45). Adolescent mothers reported on their own social competence and their children's effortful control and externalizing problems; compliance was assessed using observational methods; and academic readiness was assessed using standardized developmental assessments. Findings based on structural equation modeling revealed that adolescent mothers’ social competence was positively related to children's compliance among children with high effortful control, but not among those with low effortful control. Moreover, child compliance mediated the longitudinal association between adolescent mothers’ social competence and child externalizing problems and academic readiness. Discussion focuses on the importance of considering the role of child temperament in understanding how adolescent mothers’ social competence is subsequently associated with children's social and academic adjustment.