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15-11-2019 | Original Article Open Access

How Do Mothers’ Parental Attributions Affect Child Outcomes from a Positive Parenting Intervention? A Mediation Study

Child Psychiatry & Human Development
Vilas Sawrikar, David J. Hawes, Caroline Moul, Mark R. Dadds
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10578-019-00942-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Problematic parental attributions refer to negative causal explanations for child problem behaviour and are known to predict parenting intervention outcomes. This study examines alternative accounts of how mothers’ problematic parental attributions, operationalised as negative pre-treatment and change resistant parental attributions during treatment, may affect child behaviour outcomes from a parenting intervention program. Putative mediators included parental feelings about the child and use of harsh discipline. Participants were 163 families with children aged from 3 to 16 referred to specialist clinics for the treatment of conduct problems. Measures were collected as part of pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 3-month follow-up assessments. Mothers’ pre-treatment and change resistant parental attributions were associated with smaller improvements in parental feelings at the end of treatment which in turn were associated with greater use of harsh discipline. Greater use of harsh discipline was associated with greater conduct problems overall. Smaller improvements in parental feelings mediated the effects of pre-treatment and change resistant parental attributions on outcomes in mothers’ use of harsh discipline and mediated the effects of change resistant parental attributions on outcomes in child conduct problems. Smaller improvements in parental feelings about the child may act as a mechanism that explains the impact of problematic parental attributions on treatment outcomes.

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