Macquarie University
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Social cognitive processes associated with parental discipline

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:37 authored by Frances Houwing
To investigate the role of social cognitive processes in parental discipline, this thesis presents four studies, which examine two social cognitive processes (moral disengagement and self-efficacy) and how they relate to parents' use of physical punishment. In the first study, based on a sample of 340 primarily White Australian university students (46% male, Mage = 21.2 years), a reliable and valid measure of physical punishment moral disengagement was developed. Further, analyses revealed that greater moral disengagement proneness was associated with increased intentions to use physical punishment, and less anticipated self-censure for physical punishment use. Studies two and three were based on data collected from 390 mothers (Mage = 38.7 years) of children aged between 3- to 6-years old.In the second study, a self-efficacy scale assessing mothers' confidence to engage in positive discipline practices when experiencing different emotional states (stressed, angered, depressed, and neutral) was developed. This study also examined whether discipline self efficacy was related to physical punishment use. Results demonstrated that mothers reported higher self-efficacy to use positive discipline strategies when in a neutral state than when stressed, angered, and depressed. Further, greater self-efficacy for practicing positive discipline practices was associated with less maternal use of physical punishment. In the third study, mediation analyses revealed that mothers' reduced self-efficacy beliefs when experiencing negative emotional states mediated the relationship between negative emotions (stress, anger, and depression) and parental physical punishment use. The fourth study included data from 64 parents of 3- to 6-year-old children (50% fathers, Mage = 37.7 years). The discipline self-efficacy measure was shown to be invariant across parent gender, and emotional state influenced fathers' discipline self-efficacy beliefs in a similar way to that of mothers. The findings from this thesis highlight the importance of considering social cognitive processes when investigating parental use of physical punishment. Notably, these processes may be amenable to intervention.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. General introduction -- Chapter 2. Moral disengagement and the propensity to endorse physical punishment practices -- Chapter 3. The effect of emotional state on mothers' self-efficacy for practicing positive discipline practices -- Chapter 4. Negative emotions and physical punishment practices : the mediating role of discipline self-efficacy -- Chapter 5. Mothers' and fathers' self-efficacy for practicing positive discipline practices -- Chapter 6. General discussion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography:

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MClinPsych/PhD


MClinPsych/PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Kay Bussey


Copyright Frances Houwing 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




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