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Influence of Mother, Father, and Child Risk on Parenting and Children’s Cognitive and Social Behaviors


  • This research was partly supported by NIH Grant (R03 HD049670-01) to the first author.

concerning this article should be addressed to Natasha J. Cabrera, University of Maryland, 3304 Benjamin Bldg 3304N, College Park, MD 20742. Electronic mail may be sent to


The association among mothers’, fathers’, and infants’ risk and cognitive and social behaviors at 24 months was examined using structual equation modeling and data on 4,200 on toddlers and their parents from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort. There were 3 main findings. First, for cognitive outcomes, maternal risk was directly and indirectly linked to it through maternal sensitivity whereas paternal risk was only indirectly related through maternal sensitivity. Second, for social behaviors, maternal and paternal risks were indirectly linked through maternal sensitivity and father engagement. Third, maternal and paternal levels of risk were linked to maternal supportiveness whereas mothers’ and children’s risk were linked to paternal cognitive stimulation. Implications are that policy makers must take into account effects of mothers’, children’s, and fathers’ risk on young children’s functioning.