Many studies focus on proximal associations between parental sensitivity and emotional well-being in early childhood, with less data examining how parenting in infancy predicts children's emotional trajectories across childhood, in particular negative emotional symptoms of anxiety and depression. Thus, this study utilized data from The Family Life Project (N = 1015), a prospective study of child development in rural poverty, and assessed whether sensitive parenting in the first 4 years of life predicted child internalizing emotional symptoms (i.e., anxiety and depression) from kindergarten to fifth grade and whether early child executive functioning mediated this relationship. Path models indicated that observation of sensitive parenting predicted a decrease in teachers’ report of child negative emotional symptoms over time and predicted fewer negative emotional symptoms in fifth grade. Moreover, though executive functioning performance did not mediate change in symptoms over time, executive functioning did mediate the relationship between sensitive parenting and fifth-grade symptoms, suggesting that executive functioning is one mechanism by which early sensitive parenting buffers long-term emotional development. Findings highlight the importance of early parenting and executive functioning in development of anxiety and depression symptoms and suggests potential targets for transdiagnostic intervention.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health