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Patterns of Interpersonal Behavior within Parent-Child Interactions

Jacqueline Sperling


Rena Repetti


Brian OConnor

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 93


Thirty-two children aged 7-12 years old were videotaped at home with their families on two weekdays. Sequential analysis was used to examine specific patterns of behavior between mother-child and father-child interactions. Parent-child interactions were assessed by sampling 30-second video clips every ten minutes starting from when the target parent arrived home from work until the target child went to bed. Results indicated that children’s behavior was not contingent on their fathers’ behavior, but it was influenced by their mothers’ behavior. When mothers expressed specific levels of social vigor, children were more likely to repeat the same level of social vigor as their mothers had previously exhibited in the previous video clip. Children’s behavior marginally predicted their fathers’ but not their mothers’ subsequent behavior: when children expressed specific levels of social vigor, fathers were more likely to repeat the same level of social vigor that their children had expressed in the previous clip. There were no patterns found between parent emotional tone and children’s social vigor. When examining individuals’ own patterns of behavior, parents behaved more consistently than children did.

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