Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-z9m8x Total loading time: 0.31 Render date: 2022-09-26T00:29:41.204Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Maternal reports of child behavior problems and personal distress as predictors of dysfunctional parenting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2009

Jean E. Dumas*
Purdue University
Christine Wekerle
University of Western Ontario
Jean E. Dumas, Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907


A community sample of 96 mother-child dyads participated in a study evaluating the extent to which directly observed differences in maternal parenting behavior could be predicted on the basis of both global and proximal maternal reports of child behavior problems and personal distress. To allow for simultaneous testing of a set of relations and make tentative causal inferences, a structural equation modeling approach was used. When the analysis was conducted on the entire sample, results indicated that global and to a lesser extent proximal measures of child behavior problems and personal distress made modest contributions to dysfunctional parenting, with neither child behavior problems or personal distress playing a more important role than the other. When the sample was divided into low (n = 54) and high (n = 42) socioeconomic disadvantage (SED) families, a different picture emerged. In low disadvantage families, parenting was most strongly predicted by mothers' proximal reports of their children's behavior; whereas in high disadvantage families, parenting was best predicted by mothers' proximal reports of their own personal distress. Results are interpreted in light of Wahler and Dumas' (1989) attentional hypothesis. It suggests that mothers who do not experience chronic sources of distress (such as SED) attend and respond to their children's behavior in a fairl accurate and consistent manner, but that mothers who experience chronic distress are unable to attend effectively to their children, responding to them often in light of the many stressors to which they are exposed, rather than in light of the children's actual behavior.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Abidin, R. R. (1983). Parenting Stress Index—Manual. Charlottesville, VA: Pediatric Psychology Press.Google Scholar
Achenbach, T. M., & Edelbrock, C. (1983). Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist and Revised Child Behavior Profile. Burlington, VT: University Associates in Psychiatry.Google Scholar
Beardslee, W. R., Bemporad, J., Keller, M. B., & Klerman, G. L. (1983). Children of parents with major affective disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 140, 825832.Google ScholarPubMed
Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Garbin, M. G. (1988). Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory: Twenty-five years of evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review, 8, 77100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beck, A. T., Ward, C. H., Mendelson, M., Mock, J. E., & Erbaugh, J. K. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 561571.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Belsky, J., & Pensky, E. (1988). Developmental history, personality, and family relationships: Toward an emergent family system. In Hinde, R. A. & Stevenson-Hinde, J. (Eds.), Relationships within families (pp. 193217). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Brody, G. H., & Forehand, R. (1986). Maternal perceptions of child maladjustment as a function of the combined influence of child behavior and maternal depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 237240.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Carmines, E. G., & Zeller, R. A. (1979). Reliability and validity assessment. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chamberlain, P., & Reid, J. B. (1987). Parent observation and report of child symptoms. Behavioral Assessment, 9, 97109.Google Scholar
Cicchetti, D. (1990). The organization and coherence of socioemotional, cognitive, and representational development: Illustrations through a developmental psychopathology perspective on Down syndrome and child maltreatment. In Thompson, R. (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol 36, pp. 259366). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
Compas, B. E., Howell, D. C., Phares, V., Williams, R. A., & Ledoux, N. (1989). Parent and child stress and symptoms: An integrative analysis. Developmental Psychology, 25, 550559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Conrad, M., & Hammen, C. (1989). Role of maternal depression in perceptions of child maladjustment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 663667.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cronbach, L. J., Glaser, G. C., Nanda, H., & Rajaratnam, N. (1972). The dependability of behavioral measurements: Theory of generalizability for scores and profiles. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Dix, T. (1991). The affective organization of parenting: Adaptive and maladaptive processes. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 325.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dumas, J. E. (1984). INTERACT—A computer-based coding system for family interaction. Manual. Unpublished manuscript available from the author.Google Scholar
Dumas, J. E. (1987). INTERACT—A computer-based coding and data management system to assess family interactions. In Prinz, R. J. (Ed.), Advances in behavioral assessment of children and families (Vol. 3, pp. 177202). New York: JAI Press.Google Scholar
Dumas, J. E. (1988). INTERACT—Data collection and analysis software. Manual. Unpublished manuscript available from the author.Google Scholar
Dumas, J. E., Gibson, J. A., & Albin, J. B. (1989). Behavioral correlates of maternal depressive symptomatology in conduct-disorder children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 516521.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dumas, J. E., & LaFreniere, P. J. (1993). Mother-child relationships as sources of support or stress: A comparison of competent, average, aggressive, and anxious dyads. Child Development, 64, 17321754.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dumas, J. E., LaFreniere, P. J., Beaudin, L., & Verlaan, P. (1992). Mother-child interactions in competent and aggressive dyads: Implications of relationship stress for behaviour therapy with families. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 27, 313.Google Scholar
Dumas, J. E., & Serketich, W. J. (1994). Maternal depressive symptomatology and child maladjustment: A comparison of three process models. Behavior Therapy, 25, 161181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dumas, J. E., & Wahler, R. G. (1983). Predictors of treatment outcome in parent training: Mother insularity and socioeconomic disadvantage. Behavioral Assessment, 5, 301313.Google Scholar
Eyberg, S. M., & Ross, A. W. (1978). Assessment of child behavior problems: The validation of a new inventory. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 16, 113116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Falk, R. F., & Miller, N. B. (1992). A primer for soft modeling. Akron, OH: University of Akron.Google Scholar
Fauber, R., Forehand, R., Thomas, A. M., & Wierson, M. (1990). A mediational model of the impact of marital conflict on adolescent adjustment in intact and divorced families: The role of disrupted parenting. Child Development, 61, 11121123.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Forehand, R., Lautenschlager, G. J., Faust, J., & Graziano, W. G. (1986). Parent perceptions and parent-child interactions in clinic referred children: A preliminary investigation of the effects of maternal depressive moods. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 24, 7375.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fornell, C., & Barclay, D. W. (1986). Jackknifing in PLS. Unpublished manuscript, School of Business Administration, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
Fornell, C., & Bookstein, F. L. (1982). Two structural equation models: LISREL and PLS applied to consumer exit-voice theory. Journal of Marketing Research, 19, 440452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Griest, D., Forehand, R., Wells, K. C., & McMahon, R. J. (1980). An examination of differences between nonclinic and behavior-problem clinic-referred children and their mothers. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 89, 497500.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hartlage, S., Alloy, L. B., Vazquez, C., & Dykman, B. (1993). Automatic and effortful processing in depression. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 247278.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Huba, G. J., & Harlow, L. L. (1987). Robust structural equation model: Implications for developmental psychology. Child Development, 58, 147166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ketterlinus, R. D., Bookstein, F. L., Sampson, P. D., Lamb, M. E. (1989). Partial least squares analysis in developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 1, 351371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuiper, N. A., & Derry, P. A. (1982). Depressed and nondepressed content self-reference in mild depres-sives. Journal of Personality, 50, 6779.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lohmoller, J. B. (1984). LVPLS 1.6 program manual. Latent variables path analysis with partial least-squares estimation. Zentralarchiv für Empirische Sozialfirschung, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.Google Scholar
Mash, E. J., Johnston, C., & Kovitz, K. (1983). A comparison of the mother-child interactions of physically abused and non-abused children during play and task sessions. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 12, 337346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meyer, H. (1988). Marital and mother-child relationships: Developmental history, parent personality, and child difficultness. In Hinde, R. A. & Steven-son-Hinde, J. (Eds.), Relationships within families (pp. 119139). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Middlebrook, J. L., & Forehand, R. (1985). Maternal perceptions of deviance in child behavior as a function of stress and clinic versus nonclinic status of the child: An analogue study. Behavior Therapy, 16, 494502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, G., & Prinz, R. (1990). The enhancement of social learning family interventions for childhood conduct disorder. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 291307.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Panaccione, V. F., & Wahler, R. G. (1986). Child behavior, maternal depression and social coercion as factors in the quality of child care. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 14, 263278.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Patterson, G. R. (1986). Performance models for antisocial boys. American Psychologist, 41, 432444.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Patterson, G. R., Reid, J. B., & Dishion, T. J. (1992). A social interactional approach, Volume 4, Antisocial Boys. Eugene, Oregon: Castalia.Google Scholar
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rubin, K. H., & Mills, R. S. L. (1991). Conceptualizing developmental pathways to internalizing disorders in childhood. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 23, 300317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rutter, M., & Quinton, D. (1977). Psychiatric disorder. Ecological factors and concepts of causation. In McGurk, H. (Ed.), Ecological factors in human development (pp. 173187). Amsterdam: North Holland.Google Scholar
Shaw, B. R., Vallis, T. M., & McCabe, S. B. (1985). The assessment of the severity and symptom patterns in depression. In Beckham, E. E. & Leber, W. R. (Eds.), Handbook of depression: Treatment, assessment, and research (pp. 372407). Home-wood, IL: Dorsey Press.Google Scholar
Shrout, P. E., & Fleiss, J. L. (1979). Intraclass correlations: Uses in assessing rater reliability. Psychological Bulletin, 86, 420428.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Snyder, J. (1991). Discipline as a mediator of the impact of maternal stress and mood on child conduct problems. Development and Psychopathology, 3, 263276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wahler, R. G., & Dumas, J. E. (1989). Attentional problems in dysfunctional mother-child interactions: An interbehavioral model. Psychological Bulletin, 105, 116130.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Webster-Stratton, C., & Hammond, M. (1988). Maternal depression and its relationship to life stress, perceptions of child behavior problems, parenting behaviors and child conduct problems. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 16, 299315.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wold, H. (1982). Softmodeling: The basic design and some extensions. In Joreskog, K. G. & Wold, H. (Eds.), Systems under direct observation: Causality, structure, prediction (Vol. 2, pp. 154). Amsterdam: North Holland.Google Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Maternal reports of child behavior problems and personal distress as predictors of dysfunctional parenting
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Maternal reports of child behavior problems and personal distress as predictors of dysfunctional parenting
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Maternal reports of child behavior problems and personal distress as predictors of dysfunctional parenting
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *