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Parent-Child Mutuality in Early Childhood: An Examination of Children with Typical Social Development and Children At-risk for or Experiencing Emotional/Behavioural Difficulties Open Access


Other title
dyadic mutuality
parent-child mutuality
mutuality and emotional/behavioural difficulties
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Cook, Karen F
Supervisor and department
Rinaldi, Christina (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Buck, George (Educational Psychology)
DeHart, Ganie (Psychology)
Prochner, Larry (Elementary Education)
Pei, Jacqueline (Educational Psychology)
Rempel, Gwen (Health Disciplines)
Department of Educational Psychology
Psychological Studies in Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Parent-child mutuality focuses on bidirectional processes and refers to the positive, responsive, reciprocal and cooperative qualities observed in healthy parent-child relationships (Deater-Deckard, Atzaba-Poria & Pike 2004). Greater mutuality in the parent-child relationship has been associated with fewer child behavior problems, and increased prosocial behaviours, child adjustment and social competence (Deater-Deckard, Atzaba-Poria & Pike 2004; Kochanska & Ortmann, 2006). The present study examined whether observed individual or dyadic behaviours in parent-child interactions predicted child outcomes, and compared parent-child dyadic properties in two samples of children (a sample of typically developing children and a sample of children identified at-risk for or experiencing clinical levels of emotional behavioural difficulties) in two contexts (i.e., a play and a clean-up task). In addition, this study sought to contribute to the body of literature examining dyadic mutuality in mother-child and father-child dyads. Ninety- three mothers and fathers with their children (49 daughters, 44 sons), between 25 and 50 months of age (M = 34.15, SD = 5.78), engaged in structured play and clean-up activities in their homes. Interactions were videotaped and later coded using the Parent Child Interaction System (PARCHISY; Deater-Deckard, Pylas & Petrill, 1997). Parents were asked to complete the Behavior Assessment System for Children, second edition: Parent Rating Scales Preschool (BASC-2; PRS-P; Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2004) in order to gather information on the child’s externalizing, internalizing, and adaptive behaviours and confirm group assignment (typically developing or at-risk/clinical). Teachers (where available) were also asked to complete measures of social, emotional, and behavioral functioning. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to examine predictors of child outcomes based on parent reports. The findings based on mothers’ reports accounted for 16% of the variance in their children’s adaptive functioning with the children’s gender, age, and family income contributing significantly to the model. Fathers’ reports accounted for 26% of the variance of their children’s adaptive behavior with children’s age, fathers’ negative and positive affect, and father-child dyadic mutuality significantly contributing to the model. Based on teacher reports, significant models were observed for adaptive behaviours and externalizing behaviours, accounting for 36.4% of the variance and 39.7% of the variance respectively. Repeated measures ANOVA explored group differences in dyadic mutuality, revealing a significant group effect in the clean-up task but not the play task; with mean scores in dyadic mutuality declining significantly for the at-risk/clinical group, a task that put more stress on the dyad to work together. No significant differences were found between the tasks or between mother-child and father-child mutuality. Findings are discussed in relation to previous research on parent-child mutuality and future considerations are proposed.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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