Parental attributions of control for child behaviour and their relation to discipline practices in parents of children with and without developmental delays

Myrthe Jacobs, Lisa Marks Woolfson, Simon C. Hunter

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Children with developmental delays (DD) are at risk for developing behavior problems. Research suggests that parents’ causal attributions for child behavior are related to parenting. This study investigated this association in parents of children with DD compared to parents of typically developing (TD) children. It specifically focused on attributions of child control by separating these from attributions of responsibility, blame and intent, and from attributions of parent control and responsibility. Fifty-one parents of children with DD and 69 parents of TD children completed two questionnaires. The Written Analogue Questionnaire measured causal attributions. The Parenting Scale measured dysfunctional discipline practices. Parents of children with DD viewed the child’s role in problematic behavior more positively while also viewing misbehavior as more fixed than parents of TD children. Parents of TD children who viewed their child as more in control over misbehavior used less dysfunctional discipline, but this association was not found for parents of children with DD. The results advance understanding of how parents perceive behavior problems in children with DD and the important role these perceptions play in parental behavior management strategies. More importantly, these perceptions relate to discipline practices differently for parents of children with DD compared to parents of TD children, highlighting that parent interventions should be adapted to the specific needs of parents of children with DD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1713–1722
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number6
Early online date8 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • developmental delay
  • parenting
  • causal attributions
  • control
  • typically developing
  • attributions of child control
  • attributions of responsibility
  • dysfunctional discipline practices
  • written analogue questionnaire

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