Predicting Parenting Practices: A Study of Individual and Contextual Predictors of Parenting Practices in Canada
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Understanding factors that influence parenting practices is important, as parents play a critical role in the healthy development of children (Sanders, 1999). From an ecological perspective, both individual and contextual factors must be considered when examining predictors of parenting practices (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). There is limited research, however, that combines both individual and contextual factors within one model to predict parenting practices. The objective of the current research was to examine parents’ contextual sources of support as a buffer and as a mechanism of the relationship between the individual factors of parental stress, and beliefs and knowledge about parenting, and parenting practices. The two studies analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of 3,008 Canadian parents who had at least one child under the age of five. In the first study, hierarchical regression analyses were used to examine the availability of community support as a moderator. Our result indicated that having a high number of community resources available buffered the additive effect of high stress and negative beliefs and knowledge about parenting on parenting practices. In the second study, structural equation modeling was used to develop multiple mediator models to examine three levels of support. The results indicated that: Partner support was a mechanism through which stress affects negative discipline; partner support was a mechanism through which beliefs and knowledge about parenting affect positive and negative parental discipline; community support was a mechanism through which beliefs and knowledge about parenting affect positive parenting practices and positive parental discipline; and national support was a mechanism through which beliefs and knowledge about parenting affect positive parenting practices. Together, these findings emphasize the importance of the environment in shaping parenting practices and demonstrate that support within each environment differentially impacts parenting. Interventions that enhance the support that parents receive at the individual, community, and national levels have the potential to increase positive parenting and decrease negative parenting, and in doing so, promote the healthy development of children.