Department of Educational Psychology


Date of this Version



Cambridge University Press 2019


Development and Psychopathology (2020), 32, 229–241


The parent-child relationship undergoes substantial reorganization over the transition to adolescence. Navigating this change is a challenge for parents because teens desire more behavioral autonomy as well as input in decision-making processes. Although it has been demonstrated that changes in parental socialization approaches facilitates adolescent adjustment, very little work has been devoted to understanding the underlying mechanisms supporting parents’ abilities to adjust caregiving during this period. Guided by self-regulation models of parenting, the present study examined how parental physiological and cognitive regulatory capacities were associated with hostile and insensitive parent conflict behavior over time. From a process-oriented perspective, we tested the explanatory role of parents’ dysfunctional childoriented attributions in this association. A sample of 193 fathers, mothers, and their early adolescent (ages 12–14) participated in laboratory- based research assessments spaced approximately 1 year apart. Parental physiological regulation was measured using square root of the mean of successive differences during a conflict task; cognitive regulation was indicated by set-shifting capacity. Results showed that parental difficulties in vagal regulation during parent-adolescent conflict were associated with increased hostile conflict behavior over time; however, greater set-shifting capacity moderated this association for fathers only. In turn, father’s dysfunctional attributions regarding adolescent behavior mediated the moderating effect. The results highlight how models of self-regulation and social cognition may explain the determinants of hostile parenting with differential implications for fathers during adolescence.