Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Agreement between Parent and Child Reports on Parental Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Agreement between Parent and Child Reports on Parental Behaviors

Article excerpt

The familial environment, especially the pervading parental attitude or emotional tone of parent-child interactions, has long been identified as an important factor in understanding child development. It is related to a variety of child variables such as independence, self-esteem, moral development, anxiety, conduct problems, and school adaptation and achievement (Demo, Small, & Savin-Williams, 1987; Johnson, Shulman, & Collins, 1991; Litovsky & Dusek, 1985; Maccoby & Martin; 1983; Peterson, Becker, Shoemaker, Lauria, & Hellmer, 1961). A common problem in this research is the difficulty of assessing parental behaviors. Several studies have shown that children and parents have overlapping but discrete perceptions of their relationships or of each other's behavior (Cashmore & Goodnow, 1985; Demo et al., 1987; Jessop, 1982; Noller & Callan, 1988; Phares, Compas, & Howell, 1989). For example, in a study of children of divorce, Fogas and Wolchick (1986) found that the correlations between mothers' and early adolescent children's reports of mothers' parenting behaviors ranged between .11 and .41. Similarly, while studying agreement between college freshmen and their parents on subscales of the Child's Report of Parental Behavior Inventory (CRPBI; Schaefer, 1965a), Schwarz, Barton-Henry, and Pruzinsky (1985) found that the correlations between mothers' and children's reports of mothers' behaviors ranged from .30 to .41. Fathers' and children's reports of fathers' behaviors correlated from .19 to .29.

Improving our understanding of the discrepancies between parents' and children's reports of parenting behavior, especially for preadolescent children, is essential to research on parents' influence on children's behaviors. From a developmental point of view, parent-child agreement can be seen as one of the variables that characterize effective parenting. As Schaefer and Keith (1985), among others, have shown, people's thoughts and actions are often based on their definition of a situation. Similarly, children are influenced by their perceptions of parental attitudes and behaviors rather than actual parental attitudes and behaviors or those reported by their parents (Demo et al., 1987). Parental behaviors are most likely to produce intended consequences only if they are perceived or defined similarly by the child and the parent.

A few studies have been done on parent-child agreement on parental behaviors (Fogas & Wolchick, 1986; Schwarz et al., 1985). However, factors that might contribute to the incongruences between parents' and children's reports seem to be ignored in this research. In addition, research on how children perceive either and/or both of their parents and whether they agree more with mother or father is warranted for a better understanding of parent-child interactions and their consequences. The goals of this study of parent-child agreement are fourfold. First, we attempt to replicate previous findings on the level of agreement of reports of parenting behavior between children and fathers and between children and mothers in two-parent families with preadolescent children. The results will reflect the cross-generational validity of reporting parental behaviors. Second, we test for differences in mothers' and fathers' parenting behaviors by examining the amount of difference in children' s reports of each parent's behavior. Third, we determine whether children agree more with mothers or with fathers. Finally, we examine several factors such as children' s gender and family income that might relate to discrepancies in parent and child reports. For example, we are interested in whether female children agree more with their mothers than do male children. The results of these analyses have important implications for choosing a single reporter to represent a family and for decisions about aggregating data across family members to create family scores or to improve measurement (Schwarz et al. …

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