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Transactions Between Child Social Wariness and Observed Structured Parenting: Evidence From a Prospective Adoption Study


  • This project was supported by R01 HD042608 from NICHD, NIDA, and OBSSR, NIH, U.S. PHS (PI Years 1–5: David Reiss; PI Years 6–10: Leslie Leve); R01 DA020585 from NIDA, NIMH, and OBSSR, NIH, U.S. PHS (PI: Jenae Neiderhiser); and R01 MH092118 (PIs: Jenae Neiderhiser and Leslie Leve) from NIMH. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. We thank the birth parents and adoptive families who participated in this study and the adoption agencies that helped with the recruitment of study participants. We gratefully acknowledge Rand Conger who contributed to the larger study. We express special gratitude to Remi Cadoret, Beverly Fagot, and John Reid who were centrally involved in this work prior to their deaths. In addition, we hold sincere and deep respect and admiration for the contributions of our late colleague Xiaojia Ge to this project. Dr. Ge was a close and long-time collaborator on the Early Growth and Development Study. His contributions to this study are substantial and we will long feel the loss of our colleague.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Misaki N. Natsuaki, Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521. Electronic mail may be sent to


This investigation examined the mutual influences between structured parenting and child social wariness during toddlerhood using a longitudinal adoption design. The sample consisted of 361 adoption-linked families, each including an adopted child, adoptive parents, and a birth mother. Heightened social wariness in children at age 18 months predicted reduced levels of observed structured parenting (i.e., less directive parenting with fewer commands and requests) in adoptive mothers at age 27 months. Adoptive fathers' lower structured parenting at age 18 months predicted subsequent elevation in child social wariness. Birth mothers' history of fear-related anxiety disorders was not associated with child social wariness. Findings highlight the role of dynamic family transactions in the development of social wariness during toddlerhood.