A cognitive script perspective on how early caregiving experiences inform adolescent peer relationships and loneliness: A 14-year longitudinal study of Chinese families

Rui Yang, Yufei Gu, Lixian Cui, Xuan Li, Niobe Way, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Xinyin Chen, Sumie Okazaki, Guangzhen Zhang, Zongbao Liang, Theodore E.A. Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Leveraging data from a longitudinal study of Chinese families (n = 364), this research aims to understand the role of secure base script knowledge as a cognitive mechanism by which early caregiving experiences inform adolescents’ friendship quality and feelings of loneliness. Results showed that observed maternal sensitivity at 14 and 24 months old was negatively associated with adolescents’ self-reported conflicts with close friends (β = −0.17, p = 0.044) at 15 years old, and this association was partially mediated by their secure base script knowledge assessed at 10 years old. Further, secure base script knowledge moderated the link between adolescents’ friend conflict and feelings of loneliness (β = −0.15, p = 0.037). The results support a cognitive script perspective on the association between early caregiving experiences and later socio-emotional adjustment. Furthermore, this study adds to the developmental literature that has previously focused on more stringent and authoritarian aspects of parenting in Chinese families, thereby contributing to our understanding of how sensitive and supportive parenting practices contribute to socio-emotional development outside of Western contexts. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS: Maternal sensitivity during infancy and toddlerhood has a long-term association with adolescents’ friendship quality and adolescents' secure base script partially explains the association. First evidence to demonstrate that the secure base script in attachment relationships mediates the association between early maternal caregiving and socio-emotional development in Chinese adolescents. Adolescents lacking secure base script knowledge are particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness when facing high levels of conflict in close friendships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopmental science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • adolescent friendship
  • Chinese families
  • loneliness
  • secure base script
  • sensitive parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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