Research on the role of parenting styles in the development of disruptive behaviour problems
has focused primarily on how parents handle conflict once it has occurred. This home
observational study examined strategies used by 52 mothers to prevent conflict with 3-year-olds. It was predicted that mothers of children with behaviour problems would use fewer
“positive” strategies to resolve conflict, and would use reactive rather than pre-emptive
strategies. Results showed frequency of positive strategies did not differ between the groups.
Mothers of children with behaviour problems were less likely to use pre-emptive, and more
likely to use reactive, strategies. Further analysis showed child conduct problems, rather
than other characteristics, best discriminated pre-emptive from reactive strategy users.
Follow-up of a subsample found that reactive strategies at age 3 predicted age 5 behaviour
problems, even after controlling for age 3 behaviour problems.