Mothers’ implicit and explicit attitudes and attributions in relation to self-reported parenting behavior.


Objective: Parenting behavior is presumed to be related to the thoughts about child behavior that parents report in a controlled and explicit manner and to more implicit parent cognitions that occur outside of conscious awareness and are less accessible to verbal report. Design: We examined mothers’ attitudes toward their children as correlates of self-reported parenting behavior. We used a combination of a self-report questionnaire and a reaction-time method (the Implicit Association Test) to assess explicit and implicit attitudes, respectively. We also assessed mothers’ implicit and explicit attributions for child misbehavior in relation to parenting, using a questionnaire measure of attributions completed under high-cognitive load (implicit attributions) or under low-cognitive load (explicit attributions). Mothers of 124, 6- to 10-year-olds (52% male) participated. Results: Attitudes assessed by self-report questionnaire and the Implicit Association Test were uniquely associated with negative parenting. The cognitive load manipulation moderated associations between attributions and parenting, such that child-blaming attributions were inversely associated with positive parenting only under conditions of high-cognitive load. Conclusions: Compared to traditional self-report questionnaires, methods such as the Implicit Association Test or cognitive load manipulations may more effectively assess implicit parent cognitions.