Parent Beliefs Are Cognitions:
The Dynamic Belief Systems Model
Irving E. Sigel
Educational Testing Service
Ann V. McGillicuddy-De Lisi
What parents believe about parenting is related to their own parenting and to virtually every aspect of children's developmental accomplishments. Moreover, parent beliefs extend to other facets of the family life environment (Miller, 1988).
We begin by acknowledging the emergence of a new look for “beliefs. ” As recently as five years ago, multiple perspectives on beliefs existed, and these ranged from quasi-philosophical conceptualizations to derivations from prior social psychological theories on attitudes, feelings, values, and beliefs (e.g., Baldwin, 1965; Goodnow, 1985; Heider, 1958; McGuire, 1999; Rokeach, 1980). At the same time, some scholars eschewed the very term belief because of the historical residue and vagaries that arise as a result of common, everyday meanings attached to such a label (Goodnow and Collins, 1990). Since that time, researchers, working from attribution approaches, information-processing models, constructivist perspectives, and transactional perspectives have embraced the notion that the core component of the belief construct is cognition. Parental beliefs are of interest because such cognitions are intrinsic to the exercising of parental responsibilities. Cognition about children and parenting is the new face of parent beliefs (Bugental, 1992).
The organization of this chapter follows a developmental sequence from the history of the study of parental beliefs to a proposed transformation of the previous Belief Complex (McGillicuddyDe Lisi and Sigel, 1995) to a dynamic belief systems model that takes into account what was learned from the research review. The historical section positions the study of beliefs in an historical context, a prelude to a review of empirical studies of parents' beliefs as sources of influence on children's cognitive development as instantiated in their childrearing practices and goals for their children. In this review the topics discussed will be limited to the effects of parents' beliefs on children's behaviors, academic achievement, and social and cognitive development. In addition, attention will be paid to parental practices relative to child management. Attention to cultural studies focusing on