Parenting Self-Efficacy among Mothers of School-Age Children: Conceptualization, Measurement, and Correlates

By Coleman, Priscilla K.; Karraker, Katherine Hildebrandt | Family Relations, January 2000 | Go to article overview

Parenting Self-Efficacy among Mothers of School-Age Children: Conceptualization, Measurement, and Correlates


Coleman, Priscilla K., Karraker, Katherine Hildebrandt, Family Relations


Relationships among parenting self-efficacy, general self-efficacy, child and inaternal characteristics, and parenting satistaction in 145 mothers of school-aged children were examined. Higher parenting self-efficacy was observed in mothers of less emotional and more sociable children, and among mothers who were better educated, had higher family incomes, and reported more previous experience with children. Higher parenting self-efficacy and several mother and child variables predicted greater satisfaction with parenting. Influences of mothers' experience with children other than their own and maternal education on parenting satisfaction were mediated by parenting self-efficacy. Suggestions concerning the conceptualiZation and measurement of parenting self-efficacy are provided.

Key Words: child temperament. elementary school-aged children, parenting satisfaction, parenting self-efficacy.

Parenting competency is a multidimensional construct with diverse behavioral (Baumrind, 1967, 1971, 1988, 1991, Maccoby & Martin, 1983). -affective (Dix. 1991; Field et al., 1988; Gelfand & Teti, 1990; Radke-Yarrow, 1990; Teti. Gelfand, Messinger, & Isabella. 1995), and cognitive (Donovan, Leavitt, & Walsh, 1990; Johnston & Mash, 1989; Kochanska, 1990: Sigel. 1985; Stoiber & Houghton. 1993; Teti & Gelfand, 1991) components. A potentially central cognitive element of parenting competence is parenting self-efficacy, which may be defined as parents' self-referent estimations of competence in the parental role or as parents' perceptions of their ability to positively influence the behavior and development of their children. In general, parents with strong beliefs in their own parenting efficacy also engage in positive parenting behaviors. Moreover, as Coleman and Karraker (1998) have noted, parenting self-efficacy beliefs may play an instrumental mediational role in linking distinct parental factors (e.g., experience with children, depression), child characteristics (e.g., temperament, physical health), and situational factors (e.g., poverty, social support) with the quality of parenting (Bugental & Cortez, 1988; Cutrona & Troutman, 1986, Donovan & Leavitt, 1985). The present study was designed to provide further refinement of our understanding of the construct of parenting self-efficacy, explore possible correlates of parenting self-efficacy, and to examine the mediational role of self-efficacy in parents of school-age children.

High parenting self-efficacy seems to be strongly associated with the parental capacity to provide an adaptive, stimulating, and nurturing child-rearing environment. For instance, high parenting self-efficacy has been found to predict responsivity to children's needs (Donovan & Leavitt, 1985; Donovan, Leavitt, & Walsh, 1997; Unger & Wandersman, 1985), engagement in direct parenting interactions (Mash & Johnston, 1983), active parental coping orientations (Wells-Parker, Miller, & Topping, 1990), and few perceptions of child behavior problems (Johnston & Mash, 1989). Conversely, low parenting self-efficacy has been correlated with parental depression (Cutrona & Troutman, 1986; Teti & Gelfand, 1991), parental defensive and controlling behaviors (Donovan et al., 1990), the existence of problem behaviors in children (Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978, cited in Johnston & Mash, 1989). parental perceptions of child difficulty (Bugental & Shennum, 1984; Halpern, Anders, Coll, & Hua, 1994). high levels of self-reported parental stress (Wells-Parker et al., 1990), and a passive coping style in the parenting role (Wells-Parker et al., 1990). Findings by Bugental and her colleagues (Bugental, Blue, & Lewis, 1989, cited in Mash & Johnston, 1990; Bugental & Cortez, 1988; Bugental & Shennum, 1984) have revealed that low parenting self-efficacy is associated with the parent's tendency to focus on relationship difficulties, negative affect, elevated autonomic arousal, feelings of helplessness in the parenting role, and the use of punitive disciplinary techniques. …

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