By Lindsey Steding, Ph.D.
A Doctoral Dissertation Defended in 2016
A significant number of youth experience mental health disorders for which they suffer negative consequences. Although there are evidence-based therapies available to help children and their families, most youth do not receive treatment. Parental problem recognition is likely a primary barrier in this process. This study will address the question of why parents may have difficulty recognizing mental health problems by extending existing models and integrating evidence about parental perceptions. Aims of this study are to investigate the relationship between parental attributions and parents ’ problem determination, and to examine the influence that parental characteristics have on this judgment process. Participants will include 150 parents of youth ages 6-11 years. Purposive sampling will be used to recruit mothers and fathers from both lower and higher SES communities. Parents will complete self-report measures of parental characteristics, including: psychological psychopathology, parenting stress, parental tolerance, and parental self-efficacy. Parents will also be instructed to read ten brief child behavior vignettes while imagining it is their own child being described, and complete a version of the Written Analogue Questionnaire to rate the cause of each behavior along four dimensions. Parents will also rate the extent to which the behavior is seen as a problem. Multiple regression analyses will be conducted to determine whether causal attributions predict parents ’ problem ratings. Parental characteristics are expected to moderate the strength of the relationship between attributions and problem determination. Findings of the study may provide insight regarding the influence of parental factors on problem recognition of child behaviors, and thus inform assessment practices of youth psychopathology as well as educational efforts to help parents recognize emotional or behavioral problems in their children.