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Prenatal childbearing motivations, parenting styles, and child adjustment: A longitudinal study

Nachoum, R.

To have a child is among individuals' most important and meaningful decisions, with far-reaching implications. Despite evidence linking this decision to a wide variety of consequences, little is known about what motivates people to have children, and even less so about the long-term effects of different childbearing motivations on parenting and child adjustment. This study took a self-determination theory (SDT) perspective, examining how prenatal maternal autonomous and controlled childbearing motivations are related to child behavior problems through parenting styles. The rationale was that prenatal autonomous (sense of volition and self-fulfillment) and controlled (feeling pressured) childbearing motivations would shape later parental styles (autonomy-supportive vs. controlling, respectively) and, consequently, child adjustment. Over a period of 2 years beginning at pregnancy, 326 Israeli mothers reported their prenatal childbearing motivations, as well as parental styles and child behavior problems 20 months postpartum. Results of a path analysis revealed that prenatal autonomous childbearing motivation predicted autonomy-supportive parenting, yet the latter was not associated with children's behavior problems. Prenatal controlled motivation predicted controlling parenting, which, in turn, predicted children's internalizing and externalizing problems. No direct effects of childbearing motivation on children's behavior problems are observed, suggesting that childbearing motivation is a distal antecedent operating through more proximal factors such as parenting style. Findings were robust to children's temperamental tendencies and sociodemographic risk factors such as maternal age, high-risk pregnancy, and preterm birth. These findings have theoretical and practical implications for the discourse on motivations underlying the childbearing decision and their effects on parenting and child adjustment. 

Nachoum, R., Moed, A., Madjar, N.,& Kanat-Maymon, Y. (2021)

Prenatal childbearing motivations, parenting styles, and child adjustment: A longitudinal study. Journal of Family Psychology, DOI: 10.1037/fam0000826

Last Updated Date : 15/03/2021