Maternal Attitudes and Infant/Child Temperament: Questionnaire Assessment and Applied Intervention
The importance of the parent-child relationship is reflected in a great deal of research, theory, and public health programs. The complexity of these relationships creates methodological challenges for researchers and clinicians alike. One strong predictor of positive parenting behavior is Parent Self-Efficacy (PSE): the parent’s own confidence in their ability to successfully parent their child. It is far more practical to assess PSE, which can be measured by questionnaire, than to observe and assess parent-child interactions directly, leading many professionals to select PSE as an outcome assessment for parenting programs. Child temperament is another essential consideration for parenting, as temperamentally vulnerable children are more likely to elicit negative interactions and are also more adversely affected by them (e.g., Lorber & Egeland, 2011; Slagt et al., 2016). Limited resources often preclude the use of observational measures of temperament as well, so many professionals rely on parent report via freely available questionnaires (e.g., Putnam et al., 2006, 2013). Given widespread reliance on these questionnaire measures, consideration of psychometric characteristics, applicability of items, and other potential influences on parents’ responses is crucial. Indeed, substantial discrepancies between parental report and laboratory observational measures of temperament have been documented (e.g., Seifer et al., 2004). In this dissertation, I investigate methodological issues and program effectiveness in the field of temperament and parenting. In Chapter 1, I present theory and research on the function and measurement of parental attitudes and child temperament. In Chapter 2, I investigate the underlying factor structure of measures of maternal attitude and child temperament. Findings suggest the primary importance of child shyness in mothers’ response patterns. In Chapters 3 and 4 I present results of a parenting program evaluation using these questionnaire measures. In Chapter 5, I use multi-method assessment of child temperament to determine whether maternal attitudes may account for discrepancies between observational and questionnaire-based temperament scores. These analyses show unexpected associations among measures and substantial discordance between measures of each temperament characteristic, which were not explained by maternal attitudes. I discuss these results in Chapter 6, including recommendations for further research and public health initiatives.