top of page

Maternal cognitions and cognitive, behavior and emotional development in middle childhood

Professor Denes Szucs

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Cambridge


  • Mothers experiencing more depressive symptoms had children with lower self-esteem.

  • High parenting stress predicted children's low self-esteem and more victimization.

  • Parental sense of competence predicted children's experiencing less bullying.

  • Parental competence promoted self-esteem, math, vocabulary, and executive function.

  • Maternal educational level predicted all outcome variables.


  • Objectives

Maternal cognitions influence the mother-child relationship, and therefore children's development. However, some relationships between maternal cognitions and children's outcomes have yet to be investigated and most studies have been carried out in Western countries. We analysed how three maternal cognitions (depression, parenting stress, and parental sense of competence) were related to children's behavioural and emotional problems; self-esteem and bullying; math achievement, receptive vocabulary, and executive functions in a Latin American context.

  • Methods

Participants were 10,867 mother-child dyads: a nationally representative sample of children aged 7 to 12 years old (M age = 10.1 years; SD = 1.3; 49.16% girls). Data was collected in 2017 through home visits by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey from Chile. The analyses we performed were descriptive, frequency, correlations, and multivariate regression. Our large, representative sample allowed us to estimate effect sizes precisely and the generalize of our results to a wide population.

  • Results

Novel findings indicated that maternal depression was negatively related to children's self-esteem; parenting stress was negatively related to self-esteem and positively related to being bullied; parental sense of competence was negatively related to experiencing bullying and positively related to self-esteem, math achievement, receptive vocabulary, and executive functions.

  • Conclusions

Parenting stress was the single predictor that impacted all outcome variables. Maternal depression was mostly related to mothers’ perception of their children's behavioural and emotional problems and children experiencing bullying. Parental sense of competence predicted a diverse range of children's outcomes. We discuss how results can inform prevention and intervention programs targeting child-mother dyads.

Álvarez, C., & Szücs, D. (2023). Maternal cognitions and cognitive, behavior and emotional development in middle childhood. Current Research in Behavioral Sciences, 4, 100098.

bottom of page