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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Use of a developmental theory of parental cognition to construct a model of parental decision-making strategies Fulmer, Kaye Alison


In recent years researchers interested in family decision making have argued for the need to apply a conceptual framework to the study of parental decision making about child-rearing issues. This study is an attempt to construct a theory-based model of parental decision-making strategies. Two theoretical approaches were employed; a structural-developmental approach to provide an understanding of parental cognition, and an information processing approach to the study of decision-making strategies. Previous research has demonstrated that pressure of time and task complexity were important in influencing the selection and use of information. These two factors were manipulated by the researcher. A model of parental decision-making strategies was proposed and tested in a pilot study. The decision was made to reduce the number of variables to those which demonstrated the potential to make a significant contribution to an understanding of parental decision making. These variables were tested in the main study. Sixty mothers participated in the study. They represented a wide range of socio-economic and educational backgrounds as well as number of years of parenting experience and age. Participants completed Newberger’s Level of Parental Awareness Interview and four decision tasks about two childrearing issues. The decision tasks were presented on information boards. The model of parental decision-making strategies was tested using multivariate analysis of variance with repeated measures. Significant effects were obtained for level of parental awareness, pressure of time, task complexity and number of years of formal education. The reduced model explained much of the variance in parental decision-making strategies (71%). Specific hypotheses concerning level of parental awareness and information use were supported. The results inform theory and practice. Support was found for the theory-based model and for Liben’s view of a rapprochement between developmental theory and information-processing theory. Parents with more knowledge about parenting used less information and more variability in their decision making. Support was found for Newberger’s measure and construct. Practical implications for parent education were curricula described.

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