Children in families in which a parent has deployed to war are at risk for disruptions to social functioning. After Deployment, Adaptive Parenting Tools (ADAPT) is a 14-week evidence-based parenting program to strengthen resilience in military children by improving parenting skills. A specific focus is improving parents’ emotion socialization of their children (e.g., helping children to modulate strong negative emotions). Previous research found that ADAPT improves of children’s parental-report peer adjustment by strengthening maternal self-reported parenting efficacy, or locus of control. This study investigates a potential mechanism behind: i.e., child negative emotionality, and broadens measurement of social competence by using a multi-informant construct.
Methods: The ADAPT sample included 313 mother-child dyads. Children were 8.34 years old on average (SD = 2.48, 45.5% are males), and mothers’ mean age was 35.69 years old (SD = 5.89). Data were collected at baseline (T1), 6 months post-baseline (T2) and 12 months post-baseline (T3). A latent variable for social competence was constructed using father, mother, teacher, and child reports. Children’s negative emotionality was reported by mothers with an adapted version of Affect Intensity Scale. Maternal parenting efficacy was measured by Parenting Locus of Control-Short Form Revised (PLOC-SFR). Covariates included children’s age and gender, mother’s age, income, education, marriage status, and number of children, and length of parental (typically father’s) deployment to war. Data were analyzed in Mplus 8.1.
Results: The intervention significantly improved maternal parenting efficacy at posttest T2 (b = .18, p < .001) and maternal parenting efficacy at T2 was associated with children’s negative emotionality at T3 (b = - .20, p = .002). Maternal parenting efficacy at T2 (b = .13, p = .03) and children’s negative emotionality at T3 (b = - .10, p = .06) was also associated with children’s social competence at T3.
Conclusions: The ADAPT intervention appears to have a cascading effect on children’s social competence at 12 months via improvements in maternal efficacy and reductions in child negative emotionality. Future research should examine whether parallel mechanisms are relevant for paternal parenting.