Democratic Parenting Beliefs and Observed Parental Sensitivity: Reciprocal Influences Between Coparents

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Three hundred sixty-five 2-parent families from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were rated by trained observers on their parenting behavior at 6 assessments ranging from 6 months after the child’s birth to when the child was in fifth grade (M = 10.4 years old at fifth grade). Across assessments, parents reported on their parenting beliefs and mothers reported on the child’s externalizing behavior problems. Parenting beliefs predicted change in parenting behavior, and to a lesser degree parenting behavior predicted change in parenting beliefs. Parenting behavior and parenting beliefs both showed reciprocal effects between coparents, after controlling for child externalizing behavior and parent education.