An examination of potential moderators in the relations between mothers' and fathers' parenting practices and children's behavior
Research suggests that ineffective parenting practices play a central role in the development of children's antisocial behavior. However, there is a lack of studies that relate parenting practices to positive child outcomes, examine the role of fathers' parenting in the socialization of children, and test for potential moderators. Thus, the current study aimed to address these limitations by examining the relations between mothers' and fathers' parenting practices and child externalizing and prosocial behavior, and to determine whether the child's sex, age, or ethnicity moderate these relations. Participants included 131 couples with a child aged 6 to 17. Data were collected from both parents through questionnaires assessing parenting practices, parental depression, marital conflict, life changes, and child behavior. Dyadic Multilevel Modeling was used in order to account for the dependency of mothers' and fathers' scores. Results indicated that Positive Parenting and Corporal Punishment uniquely related to externalizing behavior. Additionally, maternal Positive Parenting related to fewer externalizing behaviors in Caucasian children but showed a trend toward greater externalizing behavior in African American children. Finally, Monitoring/Supervision appeared to function as a protective factor against externalizing behavior for African American but not Caucasian children or adolescents of either ethnicity. Regarding prosocial behavior, unique relations emerged for Involvement and mothers' Inconsistent Discipline and Corporal Punishment. Additionally, fathers' Involvement was only associated with higher levels of prosocial behavior in younger and middle-aged children, and fathers' Positive Parenting and Corporal Punishment related more strongly to prosocial behavior in girls. Moreover, Positive Parenting in both parents was associated with greater prosocial behavior in Caucasian children but fewer prosocial behaviors in African American children. Overall, these results indicate that the same parenting practices that are associated with child externalizing behaviors are also associated with prosocial behavior, and the relations differ depending on the characteristics of the parent and child. These findings may have important implications for parent-training programs and argue for expansion of current theoretical models of the relations between parenting and child outcomes.