Young children's disregard for conduct rules (failing to experience discomfort following transgressions and violating adults' prohibitions) often foreshadows future antisocial trajectories, perhaps in part because it elicits more power-assertive parental discipline, which in turn promotes children's antisocial behavior. This process may be particularly likely for children with low skin conductance level (SCL). In 102 two-parent community families, we tested a model in which children's SCL, assessed at 8 years, was posed as a moderator of the cascade from children's disregard for conduct rules at 4.5 years to parents' power assertion at 5.5 and 6.5 years to antisocial behavior at 10 and 12 years. Children's disregard for conduct rules was observed in scripted laboratory paradigms, parents' power assertion was observed in discipline contexts, and children's antisocial behavior was rated by parents. Conditional process analyses revealed that the developmental cascade from early disregard for rules to future parental power assertion to antisocial outcomes occurred only for the children with low SCL (below median), but not their high-SCL (above median) peers. By elucidating the specific interplay among children's disregard for rules, the parenting they receive, and their psychophysiology, this study represents a developmentally informed, multilevel approach to early etiology of antisocial behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health