Parental Attachment and Externalizing Behaviors among Chinese Adolescents: The Mediating Role of Self-Control

Yao Sun, Jian Bin Li, Maulia Pijarhati M. Oktaufik, Alexander T. Vazsonyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Self-control theory proposes that weak emotional bonds with caregivers are key in the lack of self-control development, that in turn increases the likelihood of externalizing and deviant behaviors. Guided by this theory, the present study tested a mediation model, namely the relationships among adolescent attachment to both parents, self-control, and externalizing behaviors (as measured in aggression and rule-breaking). Moreover, it tested the extent to which this mediation model differed by age, and it compared the relative salience of attachment to mothers versus fathers. Seven hundred and five Chinese adolescents between 13 to 17 years old (353 boys, mean age = 15.02 years) provided self-report data on their attachment to fathers and mothers, self-control, aggression, and rule-breaking behaviors. Mediation model tests showed that attachment to both mothers and fathers were negatively related to aggression and rule-breaking behaviors via self-control. Moderation model tests showed that age moderated the link between attachment to fathers, but not to mothers, and adolescent self-control, with significant effects of attachment on self-control for younger adolescents. Study findings show that although attachment to both mothers and to fathers are important for adolescent self-control, their respective effects differ across developmental periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-933
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Adolescent development
  • Deviant behavior
  • Parent–child attachment
  • Self-control theory
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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