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Parental attributions for inattentive, impulsive and oppositional child behaviours Freeman, Wendy Susan

Abstract

This study examined parental attributions for child behaviours characteristic of two childhood externalizing disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). While a few previous studies have compared parents' perceptions of and responses to ADHD and ODD behaviours, no studies to date have compared attributions for the inattentive versus impulsive/hyperactive child behaviours consistent with DSMIV's two-dimensional model of ADHD. Thus, a primary goal of this study was to compare parents attributions for and responses to three types of child behaviour: inattention, impulsivity and opposition-defiance. This study also examined the impact of behavioural context (i.e., the behaviours that precede a target behaviour) on attributions for and reactions to these distinct types of child behaviour. Fifty-two mothers and fathers of elementary school aged children with ADHD read scenarios depicting the three types of target child behaviours, each preceded by a context of other inattentive, impulsive or oppositional behaviours, and responded to rating scales assessing their attributions for and reactions to the target child behaviour. Results indicated that parents showed significant differences in their attribution and response ratings across the three types of child behaviour, perceiving oppositional behaviours as most controllable bythe child, most intentionally performed, most worthy of blame and as eliciting the most negative reactions compared with impulsive and inattentive behaviours. Impulsive behaviours, in turn, were perceived as more controllable by the child, more intentionally performed, more worthy of blame, and as eliciting more negative reactions compared with inattentive behaviours. The impact of behavioural context on parental attributions and reactions was examined by comparing parents' responses to inattentive and impulsive child behaviours that were preceded by either a context of other inattentive or impulsive behaviours, or a context of oppositional child behaviours. Results revealed little impact of behavioural context on parents' attributions and reactions. Finally the effects of maternal depressed mood and child age on parents' attributions for child behaviour were examined. In this sample, no associations were found between these two variables and parents' attributions.

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