The effects of maternal attributions on parenting: An experimental analysis

Amy M. Smith Slep, Susan G. O'Leary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To address the direction of causality underlying the robust association of mothers' attributions for child misbehavior and mothers' parenting, mothers' child-centered responsibility attributions for their hard-to-manage toddlers' misbehavior were experimentally manipulated. Mothers and children were then videotaped interacting in typical but challenging situations. Relative to mothers who were told that their children were not to blame for misbehaving, mothers who were told that their children would misbehave voluntarily and with negative intent were rated as significantly more overreactive in their discipline and felt angrier; their children exhibited higher rates of negative affect. Therefore, mothers' attributions for children's misbehavior can determine the harshness of their discipline. Further research on attribution-focused interventions and their role in facilitating treatment response and maintenance in parenting programs is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-243
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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