Caretaker variables as moderators of the early development of behavior problems in at-risk children

Linda Sadler, Pace University


This study was developed to add to the existing body of knowledge about aspects of caretaking which may protect against or moderate the early development of problem behavior in at-risk children. Hypotheses addressed the interrelationships among the variables of parental efficacy, parental control, authoritarian-controlling and democratic attitudes about parenting, and a caretaker's expectations about her child's behavior. Furthermore, the relationship of these caretaker variables to her child's behavior and to the incidence of referral for clinical/educational support services were explored. Subjects were 46 caretakers of kindergarten children from East Harlem. Participants were predominantly female, of Latino and African-American ethnicity and of low SES. Scales included versions of the Parental Opinion Questionnaire, the Parental Locus of Control Scale, the Parental Attitude Research Instrument and the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist. Overall, findings supported the assertion that aspects of caretaking influence parent perception of child behavior. Significant correlational relationships among caretaker variables demonstrated that a mother's sense of efficacy in her role as a parent is influenced by whether or not she has appropriate expectations of her child's behavior. Correlations also showed the level of a mother's appropriate expectations of her child's behavior significantly relates to the degree to which she has an authoritarian-controlling attitude toward childrearing. These findings are more important in light of the result demonstrating a significant relationship between a parent's authoritarian-controlling attitude and her perception of the degree of her child's behavior problems. Results also demonstrated a parent's perception of her child's behavior problems is significantly influenced by her level of parental efficacy. The implication is an external parental locus of control and an authoritarian-controlling approach to parenting may be viewed by professionals working with at risk populations as being possible indicators of the potential for the development of child behavior problems. Furthermore, results can be interpreted to imply, in an at-risk population, a caretaker's limited use of authoritarian-control and her greater sense of confidence in the parent role may serve to moderate her young child's tendency toward the development of behavior problems.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Sadler, Linda, "Caretaker variables as moderators of the early development of behavior problems in at-risk children" (1993). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9400679.



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