The overarching aim of this research is to promote children's positive, adaptive pathways of socio-emotional development and to prevent maladaptive pathways from infancy to adolescence. Our basic research seeks to explain why some children embark on positive developmental paths toward a mature conscience that encompasses appropriate moral emotions, prosocial, internalized, rule-abiding conduct, and robust socio- emotional competence when functioning in the family and broader ecologies, and why other children enter maladaptive paths toward callousness, disregard for rules and others'feelings, disruptive, antisocial, high-risk behavior, poor competence, and impoverished socio-emotional growth. Although the role of parental socialization is broadly acknowledged, specific mechanisms of its impact for individual children are not yet understood. In this research, early parent-child Mutually Responsive Orientation (MRO) is proposed as a powerful factor promoting positive long-term socio-emotional outcomes. In the context of MRO, socialization becomes a shared, reciprocal parent-child enterprise, and the child becomes an active, receptive, and willing participant, eager to embrace parental goals and values. Consequently, the parent can relinquish the use of aversive, heavy-handed control. This research further elucidates how socialization processes are strongly interwoven with, and their outcomes dependent on the individual child's biological individuality. Our ongoing longitudinal Family Study of 102 community mothers, fathers and children has supported this model using massive data collected when children were 7, 15, 25, 38, 52, 67, 80, and 96 months. New assessments are proposed at 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15 years, to examine implications of early MRO during the critical transition to adolescence. Our translational research, Play Study, an ongoing, theory-informed, randomized parenting intervention with 186 low-income, diverse mother-toddler dyads, fosters early mother-child MRO, and thus promotes socialization paths leading to positive child outcomes. Data are collected before, throughout, immediately after and 6 months after the intervention. A proposed new assessment at age 7-8 will test its long-term impact following the children's key transition to school. This work is significant because both studies are synergistic and parallel regarding aims, constructs, and measures, but complementary regarding designs and populations, and employ massive, multi-method, multi-trait, multi-assessment, multi-informant measures of children's genotypes, psychophysiology, temperament, behavior and emotions, conscience, comprehensively assessed competencies and functioning, parent-child relationships, and parents'adjustment and family ecology. Interdisciplinary team includes experts in socio-emotional development, adolescence, developmental psychopathology, maternal adjustment, intervention science, molecular genetics, and statistics. An innovative, unified theoretical framework integrates both studies. Analyses elucidate changes over time, divergence in developmental trajectories, processes and causal mechanisms linking constructs (mediation), and multiple causal pathways (moderation), using structural equations modeling (SEM).

Public Health Relevance

Promoting positive, adaptive socio-emotional development of the Nation's children is a key public health goal. Our longitudinal, basic research elucidates why some children embark on positive paths toward strong competence, prosocial, rule-abiding, productive functioning, and robust socio-emotional growth, whereas other children enter antisocial paths toward poor competence, disregard for rules, callousness, disruptive and high- risk behaviors, and impoverished socio-emotional growth. A mutually responsive early parent-child relationship, interwoven with the child's biological individuality, is key to successful socio-emotional paths from infancy to adolescence. Our theory-informed translational research, a randomized experimental parenting intervention, promotes successful socio-emotional outcomes and reduces developmental risks in low-income, ethnically diverse mothers and young children. Overall, this research has broad implications for effective parenting, intervention, and prevention programs that enhance children's socio-emotional growth and reduce profound burdens for children, families, and society due to negative, disruptive developmental trajectories. .

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-C (03))
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Maholmes, Valerie
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University of Iowa
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Iowa City
United States
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Kochanska, Grazyna; Goffin, Kathryn C (2017) Commentary: An exciting evolutionary framework for new bridges between social-emotional and cognitive development - a reflection on Suor et al. (2017). J Child Psychol Psychiatry 58:910-912
Brock, Rebecca L; Kochanska, Grazyna; Boldt, Lea J (2017) Interplay between children's biobehavioral plasticity and interparental relationship in the origins of internalizing problems. J Fam Psychol 31:1040-1050
Boldt, Lea J; Kochanska, Grazyna; Jonas, Katherine (2017) Infant Attachment Moderates Paths From Early Negativity to Preadolescent Outcomes for Children and Parents. Child Dev 88:584-596
Goffin, Kathryn C; Boldt, Lea J; Kochanska, Grazyna (2017) A Secure Base from which to Cooperate: Security, Child and Parent Willing Stance, and Adaptive and Maladaptive Outcomes in two Longitudinal Studies. J Abnorm Child Psychol :
Goffin, Kathryn C; Boldt, Lea J; Kim, Sanghag et al. (2017) A Unique Path to Callous-Unemotional Traits for Children who are Temperamentally Fearless and Unconcerned about Transgressions: a Longitudinal Study of Typically Developing Children from age 2 to 12. J Abnorm Child Psychol :
Kim, Sanghag; Kochanska, Grazyna (2017) Relational antecedents and social implications of the emotion of empathy: Evidence from three studies. Emotion 17:981-992
Brock, Rebecca L; Kochanska, Grazyna (2016) Toward a developmentally informed approach to parenting interventions: Seeking hidden effects. Dev Psychopathol 28:583-93
Nordling, Jamie Koenig; Boldt, Lea J; O'Bleness, Jessica et al. (2016) Effortful control mediates relations between children's attachment security and their regard for rules of conduct. Soc Dev 25:268-284
Brock, Rebecca L; Kochanska, Grazyna (2016) Interparental conflict, children's security with parents, and long-term risk of internalizing problems: A longitudinal study from ages 2 to 10. Dev Psychopathol 28:45-54
Boldt, Lea J; Kochanska, Grazyna; Grekin, Rebecca et al. (2016) Attachment in middle childhood: predictors, correlates, and implications for adaptation. Attach Hum Dev 18:115-40

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