Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 223–233 | Cite as

Inconsistent parenting: Is there evidence for a link with children's conduct problems?

  • Frances E. M. Gardner


Traditional interview studies of inconsistent parental discipline show a strong link with young children's conduct problems. Observational studies of inconsistency show weaker links with problem behavior and suffer from methodological problems. This study proposed a new observational definition of parental inconsistency, which analyzed whether mothers follow through their demands during sequences of mother-child conflict. A home observational study showed that mothers of conduct-problem preschoolers acted inconsistently during a greater proportion of conflict episodes than did their normal counterparts. There was a strong correlation between inconsistency and amount of family conflict. Inconsistency varied as a function of the context from which conflict arose. Results are discussed in terms of both coercion (Patterson, 1979) and predictability theories of problem behavior (Wahler & Dumas, 1986).


Observational Study Conduct Problem Strong Link Weak Link Methodological Problem 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frances E. M. Gardner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyInstitute of PsychiatryLondonEngland

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