Partner Emotional Support and Child Problem Behaviors: The Indirect Role of Harsh Parenting for Young Mothers and Their Children

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1 Scopus citations


Emotionally supportive partners promote the well-being of teenage mothers and their children as they navigate sensitive developmental periods. Yet, having focused on young parents’ relationship dissolution, we know very little about benefits of partner supportiveness for the development of children’s psychological adjustment or processes that may explain this association. Using five waves of Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study data (N = 771) and parallel process latent growth curve modeling, this study tested whether trajectories of partner supportiveness (measured by maternal reports of fathers’ emotional support) directly mitigated trajectories of children’s externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors (measured by maternal reports of problem behaviors) and/or whether such effects were indirectly linked through lower levels of maternal harsh parenting (measured by observational ratings of mother-child interactions). Results suggest that higher levels of partner supportiveness at birth were associated with child externalizing and internalizing trajectories that started at lower levels and demonstrated slower improvements across time. Lower starting levels of maternal harsh parenting when children were three years old partially explained associations between partner supportiveness at birth and lower levels of child externalizing symptoms at age three. Lessons gleaned from this study are discussed in context of young families’ strengths and applied to practice-based settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-390
Number of pages16
JournalFamily Process
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Child Problem Behaviors
  • Family Systems
  • Harsh Parenting
  • Partner Emotional Support
  • Spillover
  • Young Mothers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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