Parent-specific reciprocity from infancy to adolescence shapes children's social competence and dialogical skills

Ruth Feldman, Esther Bamberger, Yaniv Kanat-Maymon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Reciprocity - the capacity to engage in social exchange that integrates inputs from multiple partners into a unified social event - is a cornerstone of adaptive social life that is learned within dyad-specific attachments during an early period of neuroplasticity. Yet, very little research traced the expression of children's reciprocity with their mother and father in relation to long-term outcomes. Guided by evolutionary models, we followed mothers, fathers, and their firstborn child longitudinally and observed mother-child and father-child reciprocity in infancy, preschool, and adolescence. In preschool, children's social competence, aggression, and prosocial behavior were observed at kindergarten. In adolescence, children's dialogical skills were assessed during positive and conflict interactions with same-sex best friends. Father-child and mother-child reciprocity were individually stable, inter-related at each stage, and consisted of distinct behavioral components. Structural equation modeling indicated that early maternal and paternal reciprocity were each uniquely predictive of social competence and lower aggression in preschool, which, in turn, shaped dialogical skills in adolescence. Father-adolescent reciprocity contributed to the dialogical negotiation of conflict, whereas mother-adolescent reciprocity predicted adolescents' dialogical skills during positive exchanges. Results highlight the role of parent-child reciprocity in shaping children's social collaboration and intimate relationships with non-kin members of their social world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-423
Number of pages17
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation and the German-Israeli Science Foundation.


  • fathering
  • longitudinal studies
  • mothering
  • reciprocity
  • social competence


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