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Development and Validation of a Quantitative Measure of Intensive Parenting Attitudes


Intensive mothering (IM) attitudes have been considered the dominant discourse of motherhood, but have only been assessed qualitatively The goal of this study was to develop a quantitative scale to assess these ideologies, their construct validity, and their relationship to relevant constructs (i.e., work status and division of household labor). An on-line questionnaire was given to 595 mothers asking 56 questions assessing different aspects of IM attitudes as well as several validation measures. An Exploratory Factor Analysis on 315 randomly selected mothers yielded a 5 factor solution. A Confirmatory Factor Analysis on the remaining 280 mothers demonstrated good fit. The five factors expressed the ideas that (1) women are inherently better at parenting than men (Essentialism), (2) parenting should be fulfilling (Fulfillment), (3) children should be cognitively stimulated by parents (Stimulation), (4) mothering is difficult (Challenging), and (5) parents should prioritize the needs of the child (Child-Centered). Scales had adequate reliability and construct validity compared to the Parental Investment in the Child questionnaire, the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, and Beliefs about Maternal Employment. The Essentialism, Fulfillment, and Challenging scales were positively related to having more responsibility for child care and household chores. Stay-at-home mothers had higher scores on Essentialism and lower scores on Stimulation than both part-time and full-time working mothers supporting the notion that both working and non-working mothers have intensive parenting ideologies that are manifested in different ways.

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Correspondence to Miriam Liss.



The Intensive Parenting Attitudes Questionnaire

  1. 1.

    Both fathers and mothers are equally able to care for children

  2. 2.

    Although fathers may mean well, they generally are not as good at parenting as mothers

  3. 3.

    Parents should begin providing intellectual stimulation for their children prenatally, such as reading to them or playing classical music

  4. 4.

    Although fathers are important, ultimately children need mothers more

  5. 5.

    Parents never get a mental break from their children, even when they are physically apart

  6. 6.

    Ultimately, it is the mother who is responsible for how her child turns out

  7. 7.

    Being a parent brings a person the greatest joy he or she can possibly experience

  8. 8.

    Parenting is exhausting

  9. 9.

    It is important for children to be involved in classes, lessons, and activities that engage and stimulate them

  10. 10.

    Parenting is not the most rewarding thing a person can do

  11. 11.

    The child’s schedule should take priority over the needs of the parent’s

  12. 12.

    Men do not recognize that raising children is difficult and requires skills and training

  13. 13.

    Child rearing is the most demanding job in the world

  14. 14.

    Holding his or her baby should provide a parent with the deepest level of satisfaction

  15. 15.

    Being a parent means never having time for oneself

  16. 16.

    Women are not necessarily better parents than men

  17. 17.

    Men do not naturally know what to do with children

  18. 18.

    A parent should feel complete when he or she looks in the eyes of his or her infant

  19. 19.

    Children should be the center of attention

  20. 20.

    Men are unable to care for children unless they are given specific instructions about what to do

  21. 21.

    Finding the best educational opportunities for children is important as early as preschool

  22. 22.

    It is harder to be a good parent than to be a corporate executive

  23. 23.

    To be an effective parent, a person must possess wide ranging skills

  24. 24.

    Children’s needs should come before their parents

  25. 25.

    It is important to interact regularly with children on their level (e.g. getting down on the floor and playing with them)

Scale Coding

Items are presented on a scale from 1 = (strongly disagree) to 6 = (strongly agree).

Essentialism: 1(r), 2, 4, 6, 12, 16(r), 17, 20

Fulfillment: 7, 10(r), 14, 18

Stimulation: 3, 9, 21, 25

Challenging: 5, 8, 13, 15, 22, 23

Child-Centered: 11, 19, 24

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Liss, M., Schiffrin, H.H., Mackintosh, V.H. et al. Development and Validation of a Quantitative Measure of Intensive Parenting Attitudes. J Child Fam Stud 22, 621–636 (2013).

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  • Intensive mothering ideology
  • Parenting
  • Work-status
  • Division of household labor
  • Scale development