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)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-C (03))
Program Officer
Maholmes, Valerie
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Iowa
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Iowa City
United States
Zip Code
Kochanska, Grazyna; Boldt, Lea J; Kim, Sanghag et al. (2015) Developmental interplay between children's biobehavioral risk and the parenting environment from toddler to early school age: Prediction of socialization outcomes in preadolescence. Dev Psychopathol 27:775-90
Kim, Sanghag; Kochanska, Grazyna (2015) Mothers' power assertion; children's negative, adversarial orientation; and future behavior problems in low-income families: early maternal responsiveness as a moderator of the developmental cascade. J Fam Psychol 29:9-Jan
Kochanska, Grazyna; Brock, Rebecca L; Chen, Kuan-Hua et al. (2015) Paths from mother-child and father-child relationships to externalizing behavior problems in children differing in electrodermal reactivity: a longitudinal study from infancy to age 10. J Abnorm Child Psychol 43:721-34
Boldt, Lea J; Kochanska, Grazyna; Yoon, Jeung Eun et al. (2014) Children's attachment to both parents from toddler age to middle childhood: links to adaptive and maladaptive outcomes. Attach Hum Dev 16:211-29
Kim, Sanghag; Kochanska, Grazyna; Boldt, Lea J et al. (2014) Developmental trajectory from early responses to transgressions to future antisocial behavior: evidence for the role of the parent-child relationship from two longitudinal studies. Dev Psychopathol 26:93-109
Kochanska, Grazyna; Kim, Sanghag (2014) A complex interplay among the parent-child relationship, effortful control, and internalized, rule-compatible conduct in young children: evidence from two studies. Dev Psychol 50:8-21
Kochanska, Grazyna; Kim, Sanghag; Boldt, Lea J et al. (2013) Children's callous-unemotional traits moderate links between their positive relationships with parents at preschool age and externalizing behavior problems at early school age. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 54:1251-60
Kim, Sanghag; Nordling, Jamie Koenig; Yoon, Jeung Eun et al. (2013) Effortful control in "hot" and "cool" tasks differentially predicts children's behavior problems and academic performance. J Abnorm Child Psychol 41:43-56
Kochanska, Grazyna; Kim, Sanghag (2013) Difficult temperament moderates links between maternal responsiveness and children's compliance and behavior problems in low-income families. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 54:323-32
Kochanska, Grazyna; Kim, Sanghag; Boldt, Lea J et al. (2013) Promoting toddlers' positive social-emotional outcomes in low-income families: a play-based experimental study. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 42:700-12

Showing the most recent 10 out of 12 publications