Longitudinal associations between parental bonding, parenting stress, and executive functioning in toddlerhood

E.S.A. De Cock, J. Henrichs, T.A. Klimstra, A.J.B.M. Maas, C.M.J.M. Vreeswijk, W.H.J. Meeus, H.J.A. Van Bakel

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Early executive functioning is an important predictor for future development of children’s cognitive skills and behavioral outcomes. Parenting behavior has proven to be a key environmental determinant of child executive functioning. However, the association of parental affect and cognitions directed to the child with child executive functioning has been understudied. Therefore, in the present study we examine the associations between parental bonding (i.e., the affective tie from parent to child), parenting stress, and child executive functioning. At 26 weeks of pregnancy, and at 6 months and 24 months postpartum the quality of the maternal (N = 335) and paternal (N = 261) bond with the infant was assessed. At 24 months, postnatal parenting stress and child executive functioning were measured by means of parent-report questionnaires. Results indicated that for both mothers and fathers feelings of bonding negatively predicted experienced parenting stress over time. In addition, for both parents a negative indirect effect of bonding on child executive functioning problems was found via experienced parenting stress. These findings indicate the importance of monitoring parents who experience a low level and quality of early parent-child bonding, as this makes them vulnerable to parenting stress, consequently putting their children at risk for developing executive functioning problems.
Keywords: Maternal bonding, Paternal bonding, Prenatal bonding, Parenting stress
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1723-1733
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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