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Academic Skills, Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study, Parental Autonomy Support, Persistence, Social Competence


Drawing on self-determination theory, family stress theory, and the social determinants of health framework, the current study sought to evaluate direct and indirect relationships among socioeconomic status (maternal education and income), parenting stress, autonomy supportive parenting behavior, and children’s positive outcomes (e.g., social competences, academic skills, and persistence) using a racially diverse sample from low-income backgrounds. Using data on 2,233 children collected at birth (T1), age 5 (T2) and age 9 (T3) as part of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, a structural equation model was tested in MPlus. Associations among main constructs were tested in a single structural model and mediation effects were subsequently evaluated using a bias-corrected bootstrap method. Autonomy supportive parenting was directly and positively associated with all three positive outcomes evaluated in children (e.g., social competences, academic skills, and persistence). Maternal education at child’s birth was directly related to autonomy supportive parenting, and maternal income at birth was indirectly associated with autonomy supportive parenting through the mediating mechanism of maternal parenting stress. Autonomy supportive parenting was also found to mediate associations between parenting stress and children’s social competences, academic skills, and persistence. Parenting education and intervention programs that focus on teaching parents how to avoid or manage stress and be autonomy supportive may benefit children’s positive development. It is also important, however, for policy makers, educators, and practitioners who work with parents to recognize the impact of socioeconomic constraints that may impact parenting behaviors and choices.


This article's version of record was published in Journal of Child and Family Studies 30, no. 3 (2021): 757-770.