Title

Parental psychopathology, coping, and discipline: The exploration of a mediational model

Date of Completion

January 2002

Keywords

Psychology, Clinical

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

It is well documented that parent psychopathology is one of the strongest predictors of poor parenting. Theory and recent research suggests that the mechanism through which psychopathology impairs parenting may involve parental coping style acting as a mediator. The present study examined the relation between parent psychopathology, coping styles, and parents' reports and observations of their discipline in 46 mothers and 27 fathers who participated in a parent training program for parents of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Psychopathology included measures of depression, alcohol use, and adult ADHD symptomatology. For mothers, greater report of psychopathology was related to greater use of lax discipline, more observed consequences and praising/positive behavior, and to some degree more maladaptive coping. Higher levels of psychopathology were related to less use of adaptive coping styles for mothers. For fathers, greater report of psychopathology was related to greater use of lax and overreactive discipline, more observed arguing, and more avoidant-focused coping. Higher levels of psychopathology were related to less use of problem and emotion-focused coping for fathers. Furthermore, several non-linear relations emerged such that mothers who reported moderate levels of inattention and impulsivity engaged in more coercive parenting (e.g., arguing, repetition) and reported more problem-focused coping than mothers with either high or low levels of ADHD symptomatology. For fathers, moderate levels of depression were associated with the least amount of lax parenting and arguing. In addition, avoidant-focused coping was found to partially mediate the relation between mothers' reports of depression and lax discipline and problem-focused coping was found to partially mediate the relation between fathers' reports of impulsivity and lax discipline. However, further examination indicated that neither mediator created a difference that was significantly different from zero. It appears that screening for psychopathology and coping style prior to parents' participation in training programs may help identify those parents who are at risk for engaging in more coercive parenting behavior and who may need more specialized, individualized treatment. Future studies employing larger samples, diagnostic interviews combined with self-report measures, and more structured observational data collection may provide better results, especially for mediational analyses. ^