Parenting Characteristics as a Predictor of Child Externalizing Problem Behaviors
Flynn, Erika G.
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Background: The presentation and diagnosis of disruptive behavior (DB) and disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs) is common in school-aged children and adolescents. Increasing evidence indicates a trend in the identification of DBDs in younger, preschool-aged children. Theories on the development of DBDs posit that parenting practices directly and significantly influence the development of DB in children. Therefore, interventions designed to improve parent-child interactions is essential for effective treatment outcomes. Empirically supported and evidence-based parent management training (PMT) programs exist to teach parents and caregivers strategic parenting skills proven to reduce child problem behaviors. Notable factors affecting parent’s psychological health play a significant role in determining a parent’s ability to use positive parenting behaviors. Specifically, parenting stress is associated with undesirable child behavior and treatment outcomes. The separate relationships between parenting stress and ineffective parenting behavior; and ineffective parenting practices and child DB are well-established; however, conclusive studies investigating the interplay among all three variables are limited. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the predictive and directional relationship among parenting stress, parenting practices, and child externalizing problem behaviors. Methods: The relationship between parenting stress, parenting practices, and child externalizing behavior was examined in a sample of 47 children between 2 and 6 years old, who had a range of disruptive behavior disorders, and their primary caregiver pre- and post-completion of an evidence-based parent management training intervention. Results: The results of two primary autoregressive cross-lagged regression models indicated a significant relationship between punitive parenting (i.e., discipline techniques) and child externalizing (i.e., disruptive) behavior. Specifically, as child externalizing problem behavior increased, parent engagement in punitive parenting practices decreased. To further explore the relationship among parenting stress, parenting practices, and child behavior, additional exploratory analyses were conducted. Conclusions: Though findings of this study indicated significant change across most individual variables following treatment, it remains unclear how change across variables (e.g., stress) predict change across other variables (e.g., parenting practices) within the context of an evidence-based parent management training intervention. Moreover, PMT remains effective for reducing child problem behavior and increasing positive parenting practices; however, the effects of PMT and the positive outcomes of PMT on parenting stress remain unclear. For these reasons, further research examining the interplay between parenting stress, parenting practices, and child externalizing problem behavior is needed.