The present study examined links between mother–child reciprocity and early elementary school children's cooperative behavior, an important marker of adjustment during this age. The study identified two distinct forms of mother–child reciprocity—following the child's lead and sharing the lead—and examined their interplay with maternal perception of the child. Mothers were observed in play interaction with their children (N = 106), and three groups were identified: mothers who followed their child's lead, mothers who shared the lead equally with the child, and mothers who showed neither form of reciprocity. Mothers’ view of their child as relatively non-compliant or compliant was also assessed, and used in conjunction with reciprocity group to predict children's cooperation (two dependent measures: observed cooperation with the mother and teacher-reported cooperative behavior at school). Consistent with prediction, children's observed cooperation with maternal requests was greatest when mothers followed the lead of children whom they viewed as relatively non-compliant, and when mothers shared the lead with children whom they viewed as compliant. Teachers rated children as more cooperative in the classroom when mothers followed their children's lead, regardless of maternal view of child compliance. The results suggest that the two forms of reciprocity, following and sharing, are distinct.
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- parent–child relationships