Can We Help But Overreact? The Relationship Between Impulsivity, Parenting Knowledge and Disciplinary Style

Melissa Joanne Harrison

Research output: ThesisHonours Thesis

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The idea that gains in parenting knowledge are necessary, and perhaps sufficient, to drive improvements in parental disciplinary style is a key assumption in many parenting programs. Nevertheless, the extent to which parents are able to benefit from access to parenting education appears variable. In particular, at-risk groups for whom parenting programs might be most advantageous may be least likely to benefit given increased levels of program “drop-out” and inconsistent program attendance. Until now, there has been a dearth of research on the influence of parental impulsivity on the acquisition of parenting knowledge, or how parental impulsivity might influence parental disciplinary style. The present study examined the relationship between selfreport impulsivity (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale - Brief [BIS-Brief]), an intertemporal measure of impulsivity (Temporal Discounting Rate), parenting knowledge (Knowledge of Effective Parenting Scale) and disciplinary style (Parenting Scale) in a sample of parents (N=231) with children aged two to eight years. Path analyses indicated selfreport impulsivity, but not intertemporal impulsivity, directly predicted disciplinary laxness and over-reactivity. As hypothesised, the relationship between parental impulsivity and disciplinary style was partially mediated by parenting knowledge. Critically, the best fitting model specified disciplinary laxness as a predictor of overreactivity. The primary contributions of this dissertation include development of a path model detailing the inter-relationship between parental impulsivity, parenting knowledge and parental disciplinary style. The present findings suggest parental impulsivity is a significant predictor of dysfunctional disciplinary style. Moreover, parental impulsivity influences parents’ ability to acquire knowledge of effective disciplinary strategies, in turn influencing disciplinary style. Study results suggest disciplinary style is influenced more by a parent’s self-reported impulsivity, than their inter-temporal impulsivity. This latter finding is consistent with a growing body of research examining the influence of an individual’s self-view on behavioural outcomes. The supposition that increases in parenting knowledge will be universally beneficial (suggesting a linear relationship) may need to be re-assessed in favour of a more nonlinear perspective, with consideration for parental impulsivity. It is possible that where parental impulsivity is low and parenting knowledge is especially lacking, increases in knowledge may benefit parents a great deal, beyond which further increases have limited effect. Future studies that are able to access and recruit populations where parental impulsivity is very high or parenting knowledge is critically lacking, would prove welcome and fruitful avenues for further study. The inclusion of measures of parental differentiation (i.e. Skowron & Friedlander, 1998) into the present model as a means of accounting for variability in subjective experience is also recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Tyson, Graham, Principal Supervisor
  • McGrath, Andrew, Principal Supervisor
Award date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


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