The relationship between children's and adolescents' perceptions of parenting style and internal and external symptoms

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Background: This study examined the relationship between children's and adolescents' external (aggression or delinquent behaviour) and internal (depression and anxiety, somatic complaints or regressive behaviour) symptoms and their perceptions of parenting behaviour. Method: Participants were 159 children (83 boys and 76 girls) aged 10-17 years and were categorized into five groups. The two experimental groups included clearly defined externalizing (n = 35) and internalizing (n = 46) children. Two sibling groups and one non-sibling group served as controls. The five groups were compared for subjective perceptions of maternal and paternal rejection, favouritism and overprotection. Results: No effects of age or gender were found. The results revealed that compared with non-symptomatic children from different families and with non-symptomatic siblings, both internalizing and externalizing children obtained higher scores on the variables examined. Externalizing children obtained the highest scores, while internalizing children obtained intermediate scores. The sibling comparison data revealed a gap between the perceptions of symptomatic children and their siblings: symptomatic children reported negative parenting practices towards both themselves and their siblings, whereas the opposite was true of sibling reports. The reports suggest that while both internalizing and externalizing symptoms are associated with negative perceptions of the parent-child interaction, this may be particularly the case among externalizing children. Conclusions: The importance of perceptions of reality, as opposed to objective circumstances, is discussed in the context of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-471
Number of pages12
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Child subjective perceptions
  • Externalizing symptoms
  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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