The mother's influence on the child's behavior in a dental treatment situation: An exploration of social psychological research capability in a field setting



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The present study was designed to examine certain social psychological variables in the natural setting represented by the dental treatment situation. The variables important to the present investigation were maternal attitudes toward dentistry, the presence of the mother in the dental treatment situation in which her child is the patient, and the relation ship between maternal attitudes and cooperativeness of children undergoing dental treatment. Another important aspect of the present study was the testing of the video tape recorder as a means of behavior sampling. It is hypothesized that the presence of the mother in the dental treatment situation has an effect on the level of cooperativeness exhibited by her child. It is also hypothesized that maternal attitudes are related to the level of cooperativeness exhibited by the child undergoing dental treatment. Finally, it was predicted that the video tape recorder would prove to be a valuable means of behavior sampling, particularly for sampling non-verbal behavior, and that this relatively new device would demonstrate its advantages over human and earlier electronic means of behavior sampling, in the sense of its immediate recording and playback capability. Ten boys and twelve girls were employed as Ss in the experimental portion of the present study. The mothers of these children were also involved. Each Ss was given two back-to-back eight minute sessions of prophylaxis, and each session was video-taped. The sessions were arranged such that for half the Ss. the mother was present for the first eight minute session, and for the remaining Ss, the mother was present the second eight minute session. Each mother also filled out a "questionnaire" containing 20 concepts to be rated on seven Osgood-Suci-Tannenbaum scales. These concepts dealt with the dental treatment situation as the "questionnaire" was an attempt to assess maternal attitudes toward dentistry. The concepts used were as follows: "having my teeth worked on," "the importance of children's teeth," "the importance of adult's teeth," "teeth," "the dentist," "dentistry," "brushing my teeth," "having my child brush his teeth," "myself seeing the dentist twice a year," "having my child see the dentist twice a year," "children's permanent teeth," "children's temporary teeth," "a child with a toothache," "an adult with a toothache," "the cost of dentistry," "pulling a child's teeth," "pulling an adult's teeth," "the dentist's drill," "pain-killing shots," and "the dentist's waiting room." The scales used were as follows: good-bad, kind-cruel, valuable-worthless, strong- weak, rough-smooth, active-passive, fast-slow. The video tapes of the Ss undergoing prophylaxis were viewed by two raters who rated each minute of each eight minute session (half-session) for each on a three-point scale. The raters rated for cooperativeness by noting commands given to Ss by the E (the commands were also recorded) and then observing the reactions of the Ss. Overall cooperativeness on a seven-point scale and anxiety on a seven-point scale were also rated. Data collected for the mother present situation was compared with data for the mother absent situation, using the Wilcoxon test. The results were not statistically significant at the level of confidence chosen by the present writer, the .05 level. Using the Fisher Exact T test, each scale on each concept was related to three grouping of Ss: the most cooperative and the most uncooperative, mother present; the most cooperative and the most uncooperative, mother absent; the most cooperative and the most uncooperative, over-all. Out of 280 possible relationships, only three were statistically siginificant. For the concept "the dentist's drill" and the scale "kind-cruel" there was a relationship between a positive maternal attitude and cooperativeness. For the concept "the cost of dentistry" and the scale "kind-cruel" there was a relationship between a negative maternal attitude and uncooperativeness. Finally for the concept "the cost of dentistry" and the scale "good- bad" there was a relationship between a negative maternal attitude and uncooperativeness. The concepts regardless of the scales and the scales regardless of the concepts were also related to the three S groupings, but no significant relationships were found. The scales were also grouped to form the Semantic Differential's Evaluative, Activity, and Potency factors and then related to the three groupings, but again no statistically significant relationships were found. The concepts which dealt with maternal attitudes toward dental care for adults, as compared with children, were compared within related sets of two, with no statistically significant results. Finally, the attitude scores for all the mothers were charted such that the total scores for each scale were recorded for all mothers on one chart for each concept, and the average score on each scale for all the mothers was plotted on a second chart for each concept. A general trend to positivity of maternal attitudes toward dentistry was noted. The author concluded that out of the many relationships explored, even though only three statistically significant relationships were found, the study does provide a provocative basis for further research Into the operation of these kinds of variables in a natural field setting which the dental situation provides. This is particularly so, in view of the valuable possibilities which the study indicates are inherent in the video tape recorder for this kind of research.



Mothers, Dental care, Psychological aspects, Child psychology, Children