Parenting and externalizing problem behavior in adolescence: Combining the strengths of variable-centered and person-centered approaches

Martijn Van Heel, Wim Van Den Noortgate, Patricia Bijttebier, Hilde Colpin, Luc Goossens, Karine Verschueren, Karla Van Leeuwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies often assumed that parenting practices are similar across families. This assumption is difficult to hold, especially throughout adolescence, a period of major change for both adolescents and their parents. By combining a person-centered and a variable-centered approach, the present study adds to the literature by identifying trajectory classes in parenting behaviors and assessing their associations with externalizing problem behavior. The study aimed (a) to examine the existence of subgroups with different trajectories for five parenting dimensions (i.e., support, proactive control, punitive control, harsh punitive control, psychological control) in mothers and fathers separately, and (b) to assess whether membership of a subgroup is associated with the development of rule-breaking and aggressive behavior, respectively. The current study used four waves of data, with adolescents' age ranging from 12 to 18 years. Mothers (N = 747) and fathers (N = 645) reported on their own parenting behavior, whereas adolescent (N = 1,116) reported on externalizing problem behavior. Latent class growth analyses per parenting dimension showed that trajectory classes could be distinguished for support, proactive, punitive, and psychological control, but not harsh punitive control, and this for both mother and father. Conditional growth models per parenting dimension and per parent did not show different trajectories for aggressive and rule-breaking behavior across adolescence for the distinct parenting trajectories. However, analyses indicated that depending on the parenting trajectory, there was a difference in initial (Age 12) levels of problem behavior. Suggestions for additional research on longitudinal heterogeneity of parenting among mothers and fathers of adolescents are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-673
Number of pages21
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Adolescence
  • Externalizing problem behavior
  • Longitudinal
  • Multi-informant
  • Parenting


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