Effects of Parental Acceptance-Rejection on Children’s Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors: A Longitudinal, Multicultural Study

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Grounded in Interpersonal Acceptance-Rejection Theory, this study assessed children’s (N = 1315) perceptions of maternal and paternal acceptance-rejection in nine countries (China, Colombia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States) as predictors of children’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors across ages 7–14 years. Parenting behaviors were measured using children’s reports on the Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire. Child externalizing and internalizing behaviors were measured using mother, father, and child reports on the Achenbach System of Empirically-Based Assessment. Using a multilevel modeling framework, we found that in cultures where both maternal and paternal indifference/neglect scores were higher than average–compared to other cultures–children’s internalizing problems were more persistent. At the within-culture level, all four forms of maternal and paternal rejection (i.e., coldness/lack of affection, hostility/aggression, indifference/neglect, and undifferentiated rejection) were independently associated with either externalizing and internalizing problems across ages 7–14 even after controlling for child gender, parent education, and each of the four forms of parental rejection. Results demonstrate that the effects of perceived parental acceptance-rejection are panculturally similar.