Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sociology

Major Professor

Brian K. Barber

Committee Members

Greer Litton Fox, Suzanne B. Kurth, Hoan Bui

Abstract

One of the significant contributions of this study is its inclusion of the role of social contextual factors in determining parenting. I built on the ecological model proposed by Belsky (1984). As such, the parenting model tested in this dissertation included individual level determinants of parenting: 1) parent characteristics (e.g., developmental history), and 2) child characteristics (e.g., behavior problems). Yet, rather than include a social context domain as described by Belsky, I distinguished between within family context (e.g., interparental hostility) and external to family context (e.g., work-family conflict, neighborhood disorganization) as social contextual sources of stress and support to the parent-child relationship.

A second significant contribution of this study is attention to parent gender. I included assessments of both mother and father parenting and specifically test for hypothesized differences in how the predictive model might operate differently depending on the parent’s gender. It is important to note further that the accomplishment of this examination of parent gender involved the use of a methodology that is itself an important contribution to the existing work. Specifically, my methodology involves simultaneous testing of mother and father data, something that has not typically been done in past studies. Critically, this methodology controls for any overlap or similarity between mother and father parenting and thereby allows for a better test of the uniqueness of mother and father parenting and of patterns of predicting mother and father parenting.

This study employed parent reported data from the NIMH-funded Ogden Youth and Family Project, a longitudinal, sequential-cohort study of families with adolescent children (N = 933). Using structural equation modeling, we found that the model adequately fit the data while direct and indirect effects on parenting were found. The individual level parenting determinants of child behavior problems and parental depression were significantly directly associated with parenting, particularly for fathers. The within family contextual variable of covert marital conflict was directly associated with father parenting, and directly and indirectly associated with mother intrusive parenting through maternal depression. As risk factors external to the family, workfamily conflict was not significantly related to parenting, and neighborhood disorganization was indirectly related to intrusive mothering (but not her supportive parenting or to father’s parenting), through elevated levels of marital conflict and depression.

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