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The benefits of an autonomy supportive environment have been established as a key component in children’s development at various ages. Nonetheless, research examining the outcomes of early autonomy supportive environments has largely neglected socio-emotional development. The first objective of the present longitudinal study was to examine the socio-emotional outcomes associated with maternal autonomy support during the preschool period. Second, we explored the contextual specificity of the relationships between maternal autonomy support and children’s later socio-emotional outcomes. Finally, we investigated the indirect effect of maternal autonomy support on children’s later socio-emotional outcomes through earlier children’s socio-emotional outcomes. Sixty-six mothers and their pre-school aged children (41 girls) were followed during preschool (Time 1), elementary school (Time 2) and preadolescence (Time 3). Maternal autonomy support (Time 1) was measured in two contexts (free-play and interference task) using observational coding. Furthermore, the children’s internalizing and externalizing problems as well as their social competence were measured at Times 2 and 3. The results revealed the importance of maternal autonomy support during preschool for children’s later socio-emotional development, especially during challenging contexts, and the mediating role of children’s socio-emotional outcomes during elementary school in the link between maternal autonomy support during the preschool years and children’s later socio-emotional outcomes during preadolescence. The results highlight the contextual specificity of the relationship between maternal autonomy support and children’s later socio-emotional development and reveal one of the mechanisms through which the effect of early childhood parental autonomy support on children’s later socio-emotional development is carried forward over time.
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- Contextual Specificity in the Relationship between Maternal Autonomy Support and Children’s Socio-emotional Development: A Longitudinal Study from Preschool to Preadolescence
Dale M. Stack
Lisa A. Serbin
- Springer US