Mother-Grandmother Conflict, Negative Parenting, and Young Children's Social Development in Multigenerational Families

Melissa A. Barnett, W. Roger Mills-Koonce, Hanna Gustafsson, Martha Cox, Lynne Vernon-Feagans, Clancy Blair, Peg Burchinal, Linda Burton, Keith Crnic, Ann Crouter, Patricia Garrett-Peters, Mark Greenberg, Stephanie Lanza, W. Roger Mills-Koonce, Debra Skinner, Cynthia Stifter, Emily Werner, Michael Willoughby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Mutigenerational households that include grandmothers and adult mothers caring for grandchildren are increasingly common. The influence, however, of mother-grandmother relationship quality and grandmothers' parenting on grandchildren's social development remains largely unexplored in these three-generation households. This study examines linkages among caregiver depressive symptoms, mother-grandmother verbal conflict, observed parenting, and 36-month-old grandchildren's problem and prosocial behaviors among a subsample from the Family Life Project (N = 85) consisting of economically disadvantaged multigenerational families. The findings suggest that mother-grandmother relationship conflict presents a risk to children's behavior directly and indirectly via mothers' negative parenting behaviors. Mothers seem to be more influenced by the mother-grandmother relationship than grandmothers. These results highlight the importance of including mother-grandmother conflict in mutigenerational families in family assessments and interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)864-877
Number of pages14
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012



  • Early childhood
  • Grandparents
  • Multigenerational families
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Relationship conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Barnett, M. A., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Gustafsson, H., Cox, M., Vernon-Feagans, L., Blair, C., Burchinal, P., Burton, L., Crnic, K., Crouter, A., Garrett-Peters, P., Greenberg, M., Lanza, S., Roger Mills-Koonce, W., Skinner, D., Stifter, C., Werner, E., & Willoughby, M. (2012). Mother-Grandmother Conflict, Negative Parenting, and Young Children's Social Development in Multigenerational Families. Family Relations, 61(5), 864-877.