Continuity of Parenting across Generations: The Interplay of Parenting Styles and Age at First Birth
Type of Degreethesis
Human Development and Family Studies
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Using prospective longitudinal data, this study examined cross-generational linkages in positive and negative parenting and in age of becoming a parent. Of particular interest was whether early-childhood parenting and being born to a young mother uniquely increase the likelihood of becoming a young parent. Also of interest was whether continuity in parenting is stronger for younger parents compared to older parents. Initial data were collected in 1987-1988 when participants (G2s) were 5-years-old, with annual follow-ups through age 28. Information collected from mothers (G1s) was used to create measures of early parenting; demographic data also were collected at that time. In late adolescence and early adulthood participants were interviewed to assess whether they had become a parent and, for those with a 5-year-old, parenting behavior also was assessed. Findings show that: (1) there was modest cross-generational continuity in age of becoming a parenting and in use of harsh discipline; (2) positive parenting in early childhood predicted later age of becoming a parent; (3) these links were partially explained by socioeconomic status and early-adolescent socialization experiences (e.g., affiliation with antisocial peers); and (4) cross-generational continuity in parenting was stronger for younger G2 parents than for older G2 parents. Collectively, these findings suggest that timing of parenting and parenting behavior are related in meaningful but complex ways across generations. Implications for programs designed to decrease the likelihood of early parenthood and assist those who become parents at an early age are discussed.