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Early mother-child separation, parenting, and child well-being in Early Head Start families

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Drawing on theories of attachment and family instability, this study examined associations between early mother-child separation and subsequent maternal parenting behaviors and children's outcomes in a sample of 2080 families who participated in the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project, the vast majority of whom were poor. Multiple regression models revealed that, controlling for baseline family and maternal characteristics and indicators of family instability, the occurrence of a mother-child separation of a week or longer within the first two years of life was related to higher levels of child negativity (at age three) and aggression (at ages three and five). The effect of separation on child aggression at age five was mediated by aggression at age three, suggesting that the effects of separation on children's aggressive behavior are early and persistent.
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Keywords: behavior problems; child aggression; early separation; maternal parenting; mother-child attachment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National Center for Children and Families, Columbia University, 2: Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University,

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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