Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Sara Jordan

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Nora Charles

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Stephanie Smith

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Bonnie Nicholson

Committee Member 4 School



The relationship between parenting practices and externalizing behavior problems in preschool children is well established; however, the mechanisms that explain this relationship are less understood. It is suggested that the structure and predictability created by child routines allow children the opportunity to become aware of and learn to regulate their behaviors accordingly, yet only a couple of studies have examined this relationship. Therefore, this study examined competing models (i.e., direct, indirect, and serial mediation models) to help determine which model captures the relationship between the variables of interest. It was hypothesized that each model would have good model fit but that the serial mediation model with child routines and self-regulation as serial mediators would be the model with the best fit.

A sample of 160 maternal caregivers of preschool age children completed questionnaires measuring parenting practices, child routines, child self-regulation, and child externalizing behavior problems. A series of Confirmatory Factor Analyses (CFA) were conducted to determine how well the observed measures operationalize the proposed latent variables. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was then used to determine what structural pathway best represents how the variables of interest relate to one another.

The CFAs and subsequent SEMs had mediocre to poor model fit and failed to support the serial model as the best fit. Rather, the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) suggested that the indirect effect model with self-regulation as the mediator between the three independent variables and the externalizing behavior problem latent variable had the best fit. All models supported self-regulation as a mediator of negative parenting and externalizing behavior problems, and child routines as a mediator of positive parenting and self-regulation. These findings suggest that these relationships are stronger within their respective parenting practice contexts (i.e., negative or positive), and a serial mediation relationship may not be supported. However, these results are reflective of a community, non-clinical sample where few externalizing behavior problems were reported. Limitations and future directions are discussed.