Differential Discipline and Parent Perceptions of Siblings' Characteristics: Comparing Between- and Within-Family Analyses

Deater-Deckard, Kirby, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Scarr, Sandra, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Hauenstein, Emily, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Patterson, Charlotte, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Bell, Richard Q., University of Virginia

The investigation of the role of parents in children's development has focused on the effects of discipline on child behavior. These studies have relied on variability between families. New evidence from behavior genetics research points to within-family variability as being important to understanding the relationships between parental and child behaviors. These researchers have proposed that the within-family environment can be divided into 2 components - "shared" (that which is common to all children in the family) and "nonshared" (experiences unique to that child). While differential discipline is regarded as an important source of nonshared environmental effects to explain sibling differences in behavior, little is known about how parents' reports of differential discipline are related to their differential perceptions of their sibling children. Family interviews including 112 mothers and 98 fathers were conducted, in which parents' discipline strategies, stress, childrearing attitudes, family structure, and perceptions of children's behaviors were measured. Only 2 robust effects were found, where parents' greater use of Physical Punishment was statistically predicted by higher Traditionality, and child youth. There was little evidence for covariation between differential perceptions and differential discipline. These results are discussed within the context of specific predictions based on Socialization and Behavior Genetics theories, and a method of directly measuring nonshared environment effects is proposed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
sibling, family, parent, discipline
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