• Infants;
  • disruptive problem behaviour;
  • parenting stress

Background:  To evaluate effects of attentional/ hyperactive (Att/Hi) and oppositional/ aggressive (Opp/Agg) behaviours of children at 14 and 21 months of age on parenting stress at 21 months.

Method:  107 children from the general population with low, intermediate, and high levels of disruptive behaviours at 14 months, as evaluated by parents on a 55-item checklist, participated. Parents completed the Child Behaviour Checklist 1.5–5 and the Dutch version of Parenting Stress Index (NOSI) at 21 months. Effects of problem behaviours were examined in a 2 (Att/Hi and Opp/Agg) by 2 (not high versus high) by 2 (14 and 21 months) multivariate design with parental stress as dependent variable.

Results:  Oppositional/ aggressive behaviour at 14 months had a strong main effect on parenting stress, but not at 21 months. There was a significant interaction between parenting stress and Att/Hi behaviour at 14 and 21 months, indicating that increase in these behaviours over time was associated with parenting stress. Both Opp/Agg behaviour and an interaction between Att/Hi behaviour and parenting stress contributed to maternal role restriction and social isolation. Oppositional/ aggressive behaviour led to higher scores for parental competence and depression, whereas Att/Hi behaviour led to lower scores for attachment.

Conclusions:  Early Opp/Agg and Att/Hi behaviour had differential effects on parenting stress at 21 months. The increase in parenting stress associated with early Opp/Agg behaviour may be linked to overall feelings of parental competence, whereas the course of Att/Hi behaviour may be associated with increased demands on parent-child interactions and attachment. Our results have implications for development of early intervention programmes.