Attachment Style, Permissive Parenting Practices, and Marital
Dissatisfaction Significantly Predict Externalizing Behaviors
in Preschoolers Ages 2-5.
the Externalizing Scale of the CBCL as a dependent measure,
DeVito and Hopkins (2001) reported that preschoolers are likely
to manifest externalizing behavior problems when their parents
are experiencing marital problems, when parents vacillate
between being overly permissive and overly punitive, and when
parents' relationships with their children are characterized
by arguing, teasing, and challenging. The sample consisted
of 60 preschoolers drawn from an outpatient psychiatry department,
a behaviorally-based parent-child treatment center, and the
general community. Using Crittenden's (1994) Preschool Assessment
of Attatchment (PAA), attachment style was coded into 3 categories:
(a) coercive, which referred to a mix of coy/disarming
behavior and resisting/threatening behavior on the part of
the child, but which also included the parent's participation
in conflict with the child; (b) balanced, which referred
to secure and reciprocal attachment behavior; and (c) defended,
which referred to avoidant and inhibited attachment behavior.
Scores on "authoritative," "permissive," and "authoritarian"
parenting scales were derived from reports on the Parenting
Practices Questionnaire (PPQ) (Robinson, Mandleceo, Olsen,
& Hart, 1995). Marital satisfaction was assessed with the
Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) (Spanier, 1976). Mean CBCL Externalizing
T-score for the 21 coercive dyads was 65 (clinical
range), whereas scores were in the normal range (50, 53) for
the 27 balanced and 18 defended dyads. Regression analysis
indicated that coercive attachment style, high marital dissatisfaction,
and permissive and authoritarian parenting styles accounted
for 41% of the variance in CBCL Externalizing scores, after
controlling for SES. Permissive and authoritarian parenting
styles were positively correlated and tended to be associated
with lower marital satisfaction. However, attachment style
was not significantly associated with parenting style or with
marital satisfaction. A significant negative correlation between
SES and Externalizing score was found, but the clinic samples
were of significantly lower SES than the community sample,
resulting in a confounding of SES and referral status. In
addition, SES was highly skewed (33 of 60 children were in
the highest SES level). A strength of the study is its focus
on parenting factors and relationship factors as important
determinants of externalizing problems in young children.
However, the confounding of referral status and SES may have
inflated the correlation between SES and Externalizing score.
Reference: DeVito, C., & Hopkins, J. (2001)
Attachment, parenting, and marital dissatisfaction as predictors
of disruptive behavior in preschoolers. Development and
Psychopathology, 13, 215-231.