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Dev Psychol. 1998 May;34(3):465-79.

Parenting goals as organizers of responses to parent-child disagreement.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Parenting goals are outcomes that parents hope to achieve during interactions with children. Three studies involving 138 men (78 fathers) and 158 women (110 mothers) examined the causes and consequences of parents' focusing on various goals during disagreements with young children. Women were more likely than men to focus on relationship-centered (RC) goals, public situations increased concern for short-term parent-centered (PC) goals, and empathy was predictive of long-term child-centered (CC) and RC goals. PC goals were associated with power assertion, CC goals with reasoning, and RC goals with warm, negotiating, and cooperative parenting behavior. Attributions of intentionality and dispositional causation were possible mediators of the link between power assertion and PC and CC goals. Instructions to focus on PC goals increased negative affective states and decreased sympathy for children, whereas instructions to focus on RC goals had the opposite effects.

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