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The Role of Mothers' Use of Control in Children's Perfectionism: Implications for the Development of Children's Depressive Symptoms


  • Gwen A. Kenney-Benson is now at Allegheny College. This study would not have been possible without the generous help of the participating children and their mothers. We are also grateful to Missa Eaton and Jill Saxon for their help in collecting and managing the data. Karen Rudolph and members of the Center for Parent-Child Studies provided constructive comments on former versions of this article. This research was supported by NSF (#BCS-9809292) and NIMH and ORWH (#R01 MH57505) grants.

regarding this research may be addressed to either of the authors. Gwen A. Kenney-Benson may be contacted at Allegheny College, 520 N. Main, Meadville, PA 16335, Tel: 814-332-2396, Fax: at 814-332-4321. E-mail: Eva M. Pomerantz may be contacted at Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, 603 E. Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820. E-mail:


Abstract The central aim of this research was to investigate the possibility that when parents use heightened control with children, children develop perfectionistic concerns, which may foster depressive symptoms. Mothers' use of control with their elementary school children (N=104) was observed in the laboratory along with their affective expression toward their children; children's behavior (e.g., task engagement) that might influence mothers' use of control was also observed. Self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism and depression were assessed in children through self-report. Mothers using heightened control had children with perfectionistic concerns, particularly socially prescribed ones. This was not due to mothers' affective expression or children's behavior. Children's socially prescribed perfectionism mediated the link between mothers' use of heightened control and children's heightened depressive symptoms.