Perceived Parental Acceptance-Rejection and Psychological Adjustment: A Meta-Analysis of Cross-Cultural and Intracultural Studies

Article excerpt

Meta-analytic procedures were used to pool information from 43 studies worldwide to test one of the major postulates of parental acceptance-- rejection theory (PARTheory). Specifically, using child and adult versions of the Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ) and the Personality Assessment Questionnaire (PAQ), these studies allowed us to assess the claim within PARTheory's personality subtheory that perceived parental acceptance-rejection is associated universally with a specific form of psychological (mal)adjustment among children and adults, regardless of differences in gender, race, geography, language, or culture. Results of the analysis showed that the predicted relation emerged without exception in all studies. The mean weighted effect sizes across the full range of sociocultural and ethnic groups studied were r = .51 for children and r = .46 for adults. Analysis of fail safe N showed that 3,433 additional studies, all with nonsignificant results, would be required to disconfirm the pancultural association between the PARQ and PAQ among children; 941 such studies would be required to disconfirm this relation among adults.

Key Words: meta-analysis, parental acceptance-rejection, psychological adjustment.

Parental acceptance-rejection theory (PARTheory; Rohner, 1986, 1999a; Rohner & Rohner, 1980, 2000) is a theory of socialization that attempts to predict and explain major antecedents, consequences, and other correlates of parental acceptance and rejection within the United States and worldwide. It attempts to answer five classes of questions divided into three subtheories. These subtheories include personality subtheory, coping subtheory, and sociocultural systems subtheory. This article addresses two principal questions asked in PARTheory's personality subtheory. These are, Is it true, as the subtheory postulates, that the psychological adjustment of children everywhere-regardless of differences in culture, ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic status, or other such defining conditions-varies directly with their experiences of parental (maternal and paternal) acceptance-rejection? Also, Is it true, as the subtheory postulates, that the psychological adjustment of adults everywhere varies directly with their reported experiences of childhood acceptance-rejection?

Postulates regarding universality in PARTheory draw from the phylogenetic perspective (Rohner, 1975, 1976, 1986) or from what some now refer to as evolutionary developmental psychology (Geary & Bjorklund, 2000). In the context of PARTheory, this perspective asserts that humans have developed over the course of behavior-genetic coevolution the enduring biologically based emotional need for positive response from the people most important to them. According to the theory, this need in childhood is for parental affection, care, comfort, support, nurturance, or simply love (acceptance). The need becomes more differentiated and complex for adults, to include the wish or yearning (recognized or unrecognized) for positive regard from people with whom one has an affectional bond of attachment (Rohner, 2001 a). PARTheory also postulates that when this need for positive response is unmet by significant others, humans have the phylogenetically acquired tendency to develop a specific set of socioemotional and cognitive dispositions specified in personality subtheory (Rohner, 1999a).

In particular, PARTheory's personality subtheory postulates that seven personality dispositions among both children and adults tend to vary with the childhood experience of parental rejection. These dispositions include (a) hostility, aggression, passive aggression, or problems with the management of hostility and aggression; (b) dependence or defensive independence, depending on the form, frequency, and intensity of rejection; (c) impaired self-esteem; (d) impaired self-adequacy; (e) emotional unresponsiveness; (f) emotional instability; and (g) negative worldview. …

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