Parental discipline style : an investigation into the validity of parents' reports

Bellhouse, Margaret Ruth (2001). Parental discipline style : an investigation into the validity of parents' reports. PhD thesis The Open University.



Parenting is thought to play an important role in the development and maintenance of children's behaviour difficulties. Research involving the assessment of parent-child interactions has contributed greatly to the current understanding in this area. The present study sought to assess the concurrent validity of a popular self-report measure of parental discipline style, by examining the relationship between parents' reports of these aspects of their parenting behaviour and objective observations of the same behaviour. This represents one of only a few investigations of this kind in relation to parenting behaviour.

Parents of children who experienced significant behavioural difficulties completed questionnaires about their parenting style, depression, sense of competence in their parenting and their children's behaviour problems. These parents were also observed in interactions with their children at home. An observational coding system was developed for the study. Analysis of the observational system indicated that it was both reliable and valid. However, there was no relationship between observed and parent-reported discipline styles. Comparisons between parent-reported discipline style and other questionnaire factors led to mixed results. Taken together, these results suggested that the self-report measure of parenting style did not have good concurrent validity, and this finding contrasted with those reported by the questionnaire's developers.

These results were interpreted with reference to the design of the questionnaire, respondent-related factors, deficits in parental monitoring skills, and biases in response to the questionnaire. These results have implications for therapeutic intervention and for future research involving parental self-report measures of discipline, and these are discussed.

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