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Exploring the determinants of parental disciplinary behaviour : the robustness of child characteristics Hochbaum, Christine V.


Since the 1970’s, there has been a burgeoning interest about the potential effects of children on parents. Theoretical approaches that reflect this interest include Bell’s (1974, 1977) control theory, the writings of Ambert (1992, 2001), genetic-mediation models (Jaffee, Caspi, Moffitt, Polo-Tomas, Price, & Taylor 2004; Knafo & Plomin, 2006; Reiss, 1995), and frameworks emphasizing parental cognition (Dix, 1991; Dix & Grusec, 1985; Dix, Ruble, & Zarnbarano, 1989; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; Okagaki & Divecha, 1993; Peterson & Rollins, 1987).The “child effects” perspective focuses on understanding how and why children affect their parents. The objective of this study was to investigate the extent to which parental disciplinary behaviours are determined by child characteristics. It further sought to explore whether or not variations in child characteristics over time influence parental disciplinary behaviours. This study uses data from the first three cycles of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY, 1994-98). The sample was restricted to children 0-11 years old at Cycle 1 whose biological mother completed the survey in all three cycles (N = 11,780). Multiple linear regression was employed to test if the criterion measures of physical-psychological aggressive discipline, privilege deprivation-diversion, and reward were a function of child characteristics after accounting for parent, familial, and contextual covariates. The results showed that child social competence was negatively related to physical-psychological aggressive discipline and privilege deprivation-diversion as well as positively associated with reward. In addition to experiencing less reward, children reported as high in externalizing problems and difficult temperament received one or both physical-psychological aggressive discipline and privilege deprivation-diversion more often than children reported as low in these behaviours. All measures of discipline were inversely related to social unresponsiveness and inactivity (i.e., dull temperament; Bates, Freeland, & Lounsbury, 1979), while internalizing behaviours were negatively related only to privilege deprivation-diversion and reward. Child characteristics that represented slow development were negatively associated with privilege deprivation-diversion and reward. Preliminary evidence was obtained indicating that mothers administered increased physical-psychological aggressive discipline and privilege deprivation-diversion to children who developed high levels of externalizing behaviours compared to those who remained low in these behaviours.

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