Maternal gatekeeping behavior, mother involvement and mother-adolescent attachment, and differences in their developmental stages
ZOU Shengqi1,WU Xinchun1(),HUANG Binbin1,LIU Chang2
1 Beijing Key Laboratory of Applied Experimental Psychology, National Demonstration Center for Experimental Psychology Education (Beijing Normal University), Faculty of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China 2 Preschool Academy, Beijing Institute of Education, Beijing 100120, China
Maternal gatekeeping behavior is defined as a collection of behaviors that facilitate or inhibit the collaborative effort of fathers in the family and child-care work, which is an integral part of the coparenting relationship that is essential to family life. Gatekeeping behavior can be further classified into maternal opening behaviors and closing behaviors. The former facilitates, and the latter inhibits father involvement in parenting activities. Research on maternal gatekeeping behavior has mainly focused on its predictive effects on father involvement in the father-child subsystem. Limited research has also been conducted on predictive effects of maternal gatekeeping behaviors on the function of other family subsystems such as mother-adolescent subsystem. Based on the spillover hypothesis of family system theory, this study explored how maternal opening and closing behavior predicted mother involvement and mother-adolescent attachment that respectively represents top-down and bottom-up mother-adolescent interactions. Moreover, the attachment theory assumes that parenting by the mother is the basis of attachment formation and development. As a result, mother involvement might have a positive predictive role on mother-adolescent attachment. Therefore, an indirect effect model of maternal gatekeeping behavior on mother involvement and mother-adolescent attachment is proposed. Specifically, it is suggested that mother involvement might mediate the relationship between maternal gatekeeping behavior and mother-adolescent attachment. Furthermore, the associations among these three factors might differ during different stages of adolescence, such as early, middle, and late adolescence. Families (N = 598) that included mothers and their adolescent children participated in this study. Mothers reported their gatekeeping behaviors using the Maternal Gatekeeping Scale and involvement using the Inventory of Parental Involvement. Adolescents evaluated their attachment to their mothers using the mother attachment sub-scale of the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment. Data were analyzed using correlational analysis and structural equation modeling in SPSS 21.0 and Mplus 7.11. Results generally indicated that maternal opening behavior positively predicted mother involvement and mother-adolescent attachment. In particular, the effect of maternal opening behavior on mother-adolescent attachment was mediated by mother involvement, indicative of the indirect effect of maternal gatekeeping behavior on mother-adolescent attachment. However, maternal closing behavior negatively predicted mother-adolescent attachment but not mother involvement. Moreover, there was no indirect effect between maternal closing behavior and mother-adolescent attachment. Furthermore, an analysis of group comparisons revealed that the indirect effects model of maternal gate opening was significant in all three developmental stages, and the magnitude of the indirect effect was not significantly different between the three stages. Also, there were group differences in relationships among maternal closing behavior, mother involvement and mother-adolescent attachment in the three stages of adolescence. Specifically, in early adolescence, maternal closing behavior had a positive effect on mother involvement and mother-adolescent attachment with mother involvement mediating the relationship between maternal closing behavior and mother-adolescent attachment. On the contrary, in late adolescence, maternal closing behavior had an adverse effect on mother involvement and mother-adolescent attachment with mother involvement mediating the relationship between maternal closing behavior and mother-adolescent attachment. In middle adolescence, there were no significant predictive effects of maternal closing behavior on mother involvement or mother-adolescent attachment. This study on the whole indicated that maternal gatekeeping behavior, which is an essential aspect of coparenting, was closely related to the quality of the relationship between mothers and adolescents. Furthermore, the study suggested that developmental stages of adolescence must be considered when exploring the roles of maternal gatekeeping behavior in different family system domains. This new evidences from this study indicate practical family education programs should promote maternal opening behaviors such as facilitating fathers’ participation in child-rearing and decrease maternal closing behavior such as criticism and control for fathers’ participation.
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