Research Article: Parental acceptance and children’s psychological adjustment: The moderating effects of interpersonal power and prestige across age

Date Published: April 11, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Miguel Angel Carrasco, Begoña Delgado, Francisco Pablo Holgado-Tello, Helena R. Slobodskaya.


The differential contribution of maternal and paternal acceptance-rejection to children’s psychological adjustment has been explained by differences in interpersonal power and prestige within families; however, there is not yet enough empirical support for this explanation. This study examines the moderating effects of interpersonal power and prestige on the relationship between perceived parental acceptance-rejection and psychological adjustment across children’s sex and age. The sample was composed of 913 children ranging in age from 9 to 16 years. Multiple hierarchical regression analyses in the total sample showed a significant and independent contribution of parental acceptance-rejection and parental power and prestige. No moderating effects of interpersonal power and prestige were found for the total sample. However, when the regression analyses were conducted across different age groups, maternal acceptance had a higher contribution to psychological adjustment in children from nine to ten years old. Interestingly, the moderating effects of interpersonal prestige (not interpersonal power) were also significant in younger participants. Furthermore, the moderating effects of prestige on maternal acceptance-rejection were different in late childhood than in early adolescence. These results suggest how parental prestige may explain the higher contribution of maternal acceptance to younger children’s psychological adjustment.

Partial Text

Traditionally it has been assumed that children’s psychological adjustment is related to parent-child relationships [1, 2] and, more generally, to the way parents care for their children. From a cross-cultural perspective, the interpersonal acceptance-rejection theory (IPARTheory, [3–4]), formally known as PARTheory, has been supported by much cross-cultural evidence that interpersonal acceptance-rejection is related to individuals’ psychological adjustment. Parental acceptance (by mothers and fathers) is particularly closely associated with children’s psychological adjustment [3, 4, 5–8]. As a kind of natural law, in all analyzed cultures, children’s psychological adjustment has been significantly and positively related to perceived parental acceptance. However, fathers and mothers did not always make the same contribution to children’s psychological problems. In some studies, paternal rejection makes a greater contribution to children’s maladjustment [9, 10], while in others maternal rejection appears to be the most painful for children [11–14]. In the context of the PARTheory, a previous meta-analysis conducted by Khaleque and Rohner [8] showed that the mean weighted effect size of the correlation between perceived paternal acceptance and children’s psychological adjustment was significantly larger than the mean weighted effect size of the correlation between perceived maternal acceptance and children’s psychological adjustment. Thus, although the acceptance-rejection of both parents has important effects on the child’s adjustment, occasionally the contribution of one becomes more relevant than the contribution of another. The present study explores this differential contribution of perceived parental acceptance (fathers versus mothers) on children’s adjustment, taking into account the role of perceived interpersonal power and prestige of mothers and fathers in the familial dynamic. These results, suggest the need to explore possible mechanisms that might explain why the love-related behaviors of one parent sometimes have a significantly greater impact on offspring’s adjustment than the love-related behaviors of the other parent.

The manuscript has been carried out under the norms recommended in research on human subjects by the deontological code of European Community and the American Psychological Association´s Ethical Standards for Research and Publication. The research was approved by the Bioethics Committee of the UNED. Also, we have obtained the corresponding permissions and written consent. We also have guaranteed the privacy in the treatment of data. The participation in the study was voluntary, anonymous, and contingent upon the written consent of his or her parents.

The main objective of this study was to learn more about why the acceptance or rejection of one parent could affect a child’s adjustment more than the acceptance or rejection of the other parent when both are significant in the child’s life. From a developmental approach, considering the children’s age and sex, we explore to what extent interpersonal power and prestige might explain the greater impact of one parent on offspring of the other parent from late childhood to adolescence. The results partially support this idea and show how the moderating effect of prestige varies across different age groups.




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