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An emerging literature suggests that not only do parent and child perceptions of parent–child relationship quality independently predict children’s adjustment, but also that the discrepancy between parent and child perceptions of the relationship also carries predictive power. In the current study, we examine discrepancies in mother and children’s we-talk, which is thought to reveal the degree to which members of a dyad conceive of problems affecting just one of the members as shared. We anticipate that discrepancies in which the mother expresses a greater sense of we-ness than the child would be particularly toxic during this developmental phase, when youth’s strivings for independence ought to near their apex. Using an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of school-aged children and their mothers (N = 106, 49.1 % female; 43 % Non-Hispanic White, 21 % African American, 21 % Hispanic, 10 % Asian, and 5 % of another ethnic category or mixed race; 48 % reported an annual income of <$60,000), we expose children to a standardized failure task that their mothers observe and then interview both members of the dyad regarding the task—we-talk is derived from these interviews. We examine the discrepancy between child and mother we-talk as a predictor of children’s cortisol reactivity and mothers’ behavioral overcontrol during the failure task. We also examine whether the discrepancy in mother–child we-talk predicts children’s trait rumination. The interaction between child and mother we-talk was significantly associated with all three outcomes. Children’s cortisol reactivity and rumination were highest when mothers used high and children used low levels of we-talk. A three-way interaction of children’s we-talk, mothers’ we-talk and child age emerged, suggesting that the association of discrepancies in we-talk with maternal overcontrol depended on child age, with significant effects emerging among older children. We discuss our results in terms of their implications for preadolescent development and emotion regulation.
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- Is it About Me, You, or Us? Stress Reactivity Correlates of Discrepancies in We-Talk Among Parents and Preadolescent Children
Jessica L. Borelli
Patricia A. Smiley
Hannah F. Rasmussen
- Springer US