Relations Among Positive Parenting, Children's Effortful Control, and Externalizing Problems: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study


  • This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health to Nancy Eisenberg and Richard Fabes or Tracy Spinrad and a Research Scientist Award from the National Institutes of Mental Health to Nancy Eisenberg. The authors wish to thank the many students who assisted in this study, the parents and children involved, the principals and teachers in the Tempe, Kyrene, Mesa, and Scottsdale, Gilbert, and other Phoenix-area School Districts, and the undergraduates who assisted in data collection.

  • This study is part of a longitudinal study. Several papers have been published on the first two assessments (see Eisenberg 1996, 2000).

concerning this article should be addressed to Nancy Eisenberg, Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104. Electronic mail may be sent to


In a 3-wave longitudinal study (with assessments 2 years apart) involving 186 early adolescents (M ages of approximately 9.3, 11.4, and 13.4), the hypothesis that parental warmth/positive expressivity predicts children's effortful control (EC) (a temperamental characteristic contributing to emotion regulation) 2 years later, which in turn predicts low levels of externalizing problems another 2 years later, was examined. The hypothesis that children's EC predicts parenting over time was also examined. Parents were observed interacting with their children; parents and teachers reported children's EC and externalizing problems; and children's persistence was assessed behaviorally. Children's EC mediated the relation between positive parenting and low levels of externalizing problems (whereas there was no evidence that children's EC predicted parenting).