Relations among perceived threat, controlling parenting, and middle school children’s control beliefs

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Prior work and evolutionary theory suggest that parents might become controlling with their children in the face of environmental threat, and that controlling parenting is associated with negative consequences for children. We tested a model of relations among parental perceived threat, controlling parenting, and children’s control beliefs and school grades, with the hypothesis that parents’ perceptions of the world as more threatening would be associated with more controlling parenting, which would in turn be associated with children’s less adaptive control beliefs and poorer performance in school. Sixth-grade children and their parents responded to questionnaire measures initially and again at one-year follow-up. The children’s schools provided their grades at both time points. Findings were largely consistent with our hypotheses. Greater perceived threat predicted more controlling parenting, which predicted children’s concurrent less adaptive control beliefs and lower grades, as well as change in control beliefs and grades over time. Parents quite understandably turn to controlling parenting practices as a way of protecting their children, but in actuality such controlling parenting is associated with worse outcomes.

Publication Title

Journal of Child and Family Studies

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children’s control beliefs, children’s perceived control, controlling parenting, perceived threat, self-determination theory