Mother-Grandmother Conflict, Negative Parenting, and Young Children's Social Development in Multigenerational Families


  • Center for Developmental Science, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, 100 E. Franklin St., Campus Box 8115, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8115.

  • Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Davie Hall, Campus Box 3270, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270.

Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona, 650 N. Park Ave., P.O. Box 210078, Tucson, AZ 85721-0078 (


Mutigenerational households that include grandmothers and adult mothers caring for grandchildren are increasingly common. The influence, however, of mother-grandmother relationship quality and grandmothers' parenting on grandchildren's social development remains largely unexplored in these three-generation households. This study examines linkages among caregiver depressive symptoms, mother-grandmother verbal conflict, observed parenting, and 36-month-old grandchildren's problem and prosocial behaviors among a subsample from the Family Life Project (N = 85) consisting of economically disadvantaged multigenerational families. The findings suggest that mother-grandmother relationship conflict presents a risk to children's behavior directly and indirectly via mothers' negative parenting behaviors. Mothers seem to be more influenced by the mother-grandmother relationship than grandmothers. These results highlight the importance of including mother-grandmother conflict in mutigenerational families in family assessments and interventions.