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Mother–Child Planning and Child Compliance


  • This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (1R03MH45220-01) awarded to the first author. We thank Terri DeMent, Amy Byers, Jim Hoste, Graeme Hoste, Rolanda Bradshaw, and Kathy Pezdek for their help in conducting the study and John Reid for helpful comments in developing this research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Mary Gauvain, Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study investigated child compliance and maternal instruction during planning. Based on the Child Behavior Checklist and free-play observations, 40 mothers and their 4- to 5-year-old children were assigned to a group with children who behaved within the normal range of compliance (n = 20) or a group with children with high rates of noncompliance for this age (n = 20). Mothers in the noncompliant group provided more low-level, directive, and negative instruction; requested more compliance; and shared less task responsibility with children. Mothers in both groups responded to child compliance by increasing or maintaining the level of instruction. Results are discussed in relation to the role of child compliance in regulating opportunities for cognitive development in social context.