Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Cognitive, affective, and coping reactions in the parenting role were examined as psychological mechanisms differentiating High and Low stress mothers. Sixty High and Low stress mothers of 3- to 6-year-old boys and girls were shown videotaped scenes of compliant, actively noncompliant, and passively noncompliant child behaviors. Parental stress was defined as occurring when a parent viewed her role as highly demanding (by either reducing the opportunity to engage in pleasurable activities or being obligated to assume unpleasant ones). Results indicated that, in comparison to the Low stress mothers, the High stress mothers thought they could resolve fewer scenes; felt they would take longer to obtain compliance in the resolved scenes; reported less control of the interaction in the resolved scenes; and appraised the child's noncompliance as more deliberate and provoking to the mother. The affective measures did not reliably differentiate between the two groups. It was reasoned that the experimental condition was not salient enough to elicit strong affective reactions from the subjects. In their choices of disciplinary techniques, High stress mothers were less flexible than and did not use some techniques as effectively as the Low stress mothers. Coping reactions indicated that the High stress mothers tended to avoid dealing with difficult noncompliant behaviors, used confrontational techniques, and accepted more responsibility for the noncompliance. No coping techniques were distinctive of the Low stress mothers. In general, the results were consistent with the notion that mothers who are stressed by the parenting role tend to judge themselves to be less in control of, and have fewer capabilities to deal with, difficult parenting situations and to perceive that their child's actions as more threatening to their parental power. High stress parents cope with difficult parenting situations that may perpetuate these negative reactions. The results are discussed within the framework of appraisals of stress as a mediator of normal and abusive parenting. A continuum of parenting from normal to high stress to abusive parenting was argued.



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