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Maternal Power Assertive Discipline and Children’s Adjustment in High-Risk Families: A Social Domain Theory Approach

Abstract

The goal of the present study was to examine associations between maternal use of power assertive parenting across different discipline contexts and children’s adjustment in a sample of low-income, racially diverse families. Drawing from social domain perspectives on parenting, we specifically examined discipline in response to child transgressions in conventional, moral, and prudential contexts. In turn, we tested how power assertive discipline within these domains may be differentially linked to children’s externalizing and internalizing symptomatology over time. Participants included 201 toddlers and their mothers who were assessed across two waves spaced two years apart. Results indicated that mothers were more likely to endorse power assertive parenting within prudential contexts compared to others. Longitudinal analyses revealed that power assertive discipline in the conventional domain was primarily associated with internalizing symptoms while the moral domain was associated with externalizing symptoms over time. Moreover, domains of caregiving were differentially associated with substantive constructs as opposed to sociodemographic constructs. The results are interpreted within social domain conceptualizations of socialization that underscore how distinct domains may differentially impact children’s socio-emotional adjustment.

Highlights

  • Discipline in the moral domain linked to greater externalizing symptoms.

  • Discipline in the conventional domain associated with greater internalizing symptoms.

  • Discipline in the prudential domain linked to lower externalizing symptoms.

  • Children’s difficult temperament was associated with maternal use of power-assertive discipline.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the children, parents, and community agencies who participated in this project and to the Mt. Hope Family Center staff.

Funding

This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH071256) awarded to Patrick T. Davies and Dante Cicchetti. The authors have no relevant financial or nonfinancial interests to disclose.

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Correspondence to Melissa L. Sturge-Apple.

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The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Rochester. The procedures used in this study adhere to the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki.

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Mothers provided written consent and permission for their child before the families were enrolled in the study.

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Sturge-Apple, M.L., Jacques, D.T., Davies, P.T. et al. Maternal Power Assertive Discipline and Children’s Adjustment in High-Risk Families: A Social Domain Theory Approach. J Child Fam Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-02127-7

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Keywords

  • Discipline
  • High risk families
  • Externalizing problems
  • Internalizing problems
  • Parenting