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06-02-2020 | Original Paper | Uitgave 4/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 4/2020

Applying a Momentary Parenting Goal-Regulation Model to Discipline Episodes with Toddlers

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 4/2020
Hua Lin, Kathy L. Ritchie, Robert E. Larzelere
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The purpose of this study is to explore how momentary parenting goals vary by discipline episode-related factors, including type of child noncompliance, mothers’ attributions, maternal negative affect, episode duration, and disciplinary practices used.


This is a study of 105 mothers and their 17- to 31-month-old toddlers. Most mothers were interviewed first at the university laboratory and then by phone as soon as possible thereafter. They reported details of four turn-by-turn discipline episodes with their toddlers and then described their momentary parenting goals, attributions, and negative affect for each episode.


Whether parenting goals were child- or parent-centered or were short- or long-term was rarely consistent across all four episodes and changed within 26% of the episodes. Changes in goals were more likely during long episodes, in response to whining or tantrums, when mothers were upset emotionally, and when they reported a combination of both dispositional and situational attributions during the episode. Mothers’ dispositional attributions predicted child-centered and long-term goals. Those goals, in turn, predicted increased use of reasoning and less use of physical power assertion and giving in. Child-centered goals also predicted less use of bribes/rewards and ignoring. Maternal negative affect was unrelated to momentary goal types. Hitting and passive noncompliance were marginally associated with child-centered and long-term goals.


The results in this exploratory study provide initial evidence about some antecedents and consequences of momentary parenting goals, which often change across and within discipline episodes with toddlers.

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