THE IMPACT OF PARENTAL CONTROL AND MARITAL CONFLICT ON ADOLESCENTS’ SELF-REGULATION AND ADJUSTMENT
The current study aims to increase understanding of influences on and consequences of self-regulation in adolescence. Previous work has shown that higher levels of self-regulation are associated with greater social competence and lower levels problem behaviors. Past studies have posited that parenting and interparental conflict are linked to self-regulation and adjustment in childhood and adolescence. However, the mechanism underlying the potential effects of specific parental behaviors and interparental conflict on self-regulation and their unique effects on adjustment have been largely unexamined. It was hypothesized that parental psychological and behavioral control and interparental conflict would be indirectly associated with adolescent outcomes via self-regulation abilities. Besides, differential impacts of parental controlling behaviors on self-regulation were also explored. The study involved a sample of 300 students in the 6th and 7th grades and their mothers. Students completed self-report questionnaires on parental control behaviors, self-regulation abilities, and academic self-concept. Furthermore, mothers completed questionnaires including parental control, interparental conflict, self-regulation abilities of adolescents, and adolescent adjustment (i.e., hyperactivation/inattention, emotional, and prosocial behaviors). The mediational hypothesis was largely supported. Results suggested that perceived parental psychological control and interparental conflict predicted low levels of self-regulation and in turn, this predicted adolescent adjustment. Parental behavioral control predicted self-regulation abilities in adolescent-reported model only. As predicted, different parental psychological control dimensions had divergent impact on adolescent outcomes. Specifically, love withdrawal/irrespective parenting was associated with the highest adolescent adjustment. Results also showed that the interplay between paternal guilt induction/erratic emotional behaviors and monitoring was significant in predicting prosocial behaviors and perseverance of adolescents. Similarly, the significant interaction between maternal love withdrawal/irrespective and knowledge suggested that high maternal withdrawal combined with high parental knowledge may result in hyperactivation/inattention problems among early adolescents. Finally, two U-shaped curvilinear relationships were found between psychological control and adjustment variables. Accordingly, the relationship between paternal guilt induction/erratic emotional behaviors and low perseverance/monitoring; and maternal love withdrawal/irrespective and Turkish academic self-concept had curvilinear relationship. Theoretical, methodological, cultural, and practical implications of the findings were discussed considering previous literature.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS xi
LIST OF TABLES xiv
LIST OF FIGURES xv
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS xvi
1. INTRODUCTION 1
The Purpose of the Study 2
Reviews of the Literature on Self-Regulation 3
Self-Regulation Process: Conscious or Automatic Responses? 5
Delay of Gratification 5
Self-Regulatory Strength Model 7
Self-Regulation as an Automatic Process 8
Consequences of Self-Regulation Success and Failure 11
Development of Self-Regulation and Implications for Parenting 12
Parenting as a Socialization Instrument 15
Parental Control 18
Psychological Control 19
Behavioral Control 21
Parental Control and Adolescent Adjustment 22
Interparental Context 23
Psychological and Behavioral Control, Marital Conflict and Self- Regulation in Adolescence 26
Adolescent Adjustment 28
Externalizing Problem Behaviors 29
Internalizing Problem Behaviors 30
Academic Self-Concept 31
The Current Study 32
2. METHOD 36
Demographic Information 39
Parental Psychological Control 39
Parental Behavioral Control 41
Academic Self-Concept 44
Interparental Conflict Questionnaire 45
The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) 46
Data Analyses 47
3. RESULTS 49
Preliminary Analyses 49
Research Question #1: Are the Impacts of Parental Control and Interparental Conflict Mediated by Adolescent Self-Regulatory Abilities? 62
The Proposed Mediational Model 63
Adolescent-Reported Model 74
Mother-Reported Model 77
Research Question #2: Are Parental Control Dimensions Linked
to Self-Regulation and Adjustment? 80
Testing Differential Impact of Specific Dimensions of
Parental Control 80
Testing Curvilinearity of the Relationships between Parental Control and Adolescent Outcomes 85
Testing Interactions among Parental Control Dimensions 87
4. DISCUSSION 93
Bivariate Associations among the Study Variables 93
Gender Differences in Adolescents’ Perceived Parental Control, Self-Regulation and Adjustment 96
Age Differences in Adolescents’ Perceived Parental Control,
Self-Regulation and Adjustment 97
Mediating Role of Self-Regulation 99
Parental Control and Self-Regulation 101
Interparental Conflict and Self-Regulation 101
Self-Regulation and Adolescent Adjustment 102
Specific Dimensions of Parental Control and its Effects on Adjustment 103
The Impacts of Parental Psychological Control 103
The Impacts of Parental Behavioral Control 106
Limitations and Directions for Future Research 109
Implications of the Study for Parents 110
Appendix A. Permission Letter 124
Appendix B. Demographic Questions for Mothers 126
APPENDIX C. Adolescent Questionnaire Set 129
Appendix D. Mother Questionnaire Set 149
Appendix E. Factor Analysis Result of Parental Psychological Control Scale 161
Appendix F. Confirmatory Factor Analyses Results 163
Appendix G. Factor Analysis Result of Parental Behavioral Control Scale 164
Appendix H. Factor Analysis Result of Adolescents Self-Regulatory Inventory 164
Appendix I. Factor Analysis Result of Self-Control Rating Scale 164
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of the Sample 38
Table 2. Factor Analysis Results of Parental Psychological Control Scale 40
Table 3. Factor Analysis Results of Parental Behavioral Control Scale 42
Table 4. Factor Analysis Results of Adolescents’ Self-Regulatory Inventory 43
Table 5. Factor Analysis Results of Self-Control Rating Scale 44
Table 6. Means, Standard Deviations, and Bivariate Correlations between Main Study Variables for Adolescents 51
Table 7. Bivariate Correlations between Main Study Variables for Mothers 53
Table 8. Bivariate Correlations between Adolescent Reported and Mother Reported Major Variables 55
Table 9. Gender Differences on Main Study Variables 57
Table 10. Age Differences on Main Study Variables 59
Table 11. Education Level Differences of Mothers’ on Main Study Variables 61
Table 12. Model Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analyses Examining the Impact of the Parental Psychological Control 82
Table 13 . Model Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analyses Examining the Impact of Parental Behavioral Control 84
Table 14 . Model Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analyses Examining the Interaction between Maternal Psychological and Behavioral 88
Table 15. Model Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analyses Examining the Interaction between Paternal Psychological and Behavioral Control 91
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. The Hypothetical Model of the Predictive Relationships 2
Figure 2 Contextual Model for Parenting, Self-Regulatory Skills, and Youth Adjustment 34
Figure 3. Measurement Model for the Proposed Mediational Model 65
Figure 4. Structural Model for the Proposed Mediational Model 69
Figure 5. The Structural Model for Full-Mediation Model 71
Figure 6. The Structural Model for the Only Direct Effect Model 73
Figure 7. Structural Model for the Adolescent-Reported Model 76
Figure 8. Structural Model for the Mother-Reported Model 79
Figure 9. The U-Shaped Relationship between Perceived Paternal Guilt induction/erratic emotional behaviors and Low Perseverance/Monitoring 86
Figure 10. The U-Shaped Relationship between Perceived Maternal Love withdrawal/irrespective and Turkish Self-Concept of Adolescents 87
Figure 11. The Interaction between Perceived Maternal Love withdrawal / irrespective and Maternal Knowledge in Predicting Hyperactivation/Inattention 89
Figure 12. The Interaction between Perceived Paternal Guilt induction/erratic emotional behaviors and Monitoring in Predicting Mother Reported Low 90
Figure 13. The Interaction between Paternal Guilt induction/erratic emotional behaviors and Monitoring in Predicting Mother Reported Prosocial Behaviors of Adolescents 92
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
A-R = Adolescent-Reported
M-R = Mother-Reported
GI = Guilt Induction/Erratic Emotional Behaviors
LW = Love Withdrawal/Irrespective
PK = Parental Knowledge
M = Monitoring
MC = Marital Conflict
SSR = Success in Self-Regulation FSR = Failure in Self-Regulation LP/M = Low Perseverance/Monitoring
I/A/A = Inhibition/Adapting/Activation
MSC = Math Self-Concept
TSC = Turkish Self-Concept
HYP = Hyperactivation/Inattention
EMO = Emotional Problems
PRO = Prosocial Behaviors
Primary concern of parents is to promote their children’s well-being and to prevent negative outcomes in their developmental trajectory. However, past studies have documented that the ability to regulate, alter or control one’s own behavior or emotion is the main protective factor that prevents children from risky behaviors or maladaptive outcomes (Sethi, Mischel, Aber, Shoda, and Rodriguez, 2000; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). High levels of self-regulation ability has also been linked to social and cognitive competence (Barkley, 2004), while low levels of self-regulation have been found to be associated with problem behaviors in childhood and adolescence (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). However, the majority of previous work regarding the association between self-regulation and psychological adjustment has focused primarily on adolescents (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004; Moilanen, 2007). In contrast, research regarding the effects of contextual and familial effects (e.g., parenting) on self-regulation has mainly conducted on children (Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005; Grolnick, & Ryan, 1989). For instance, there is not adequate research on how parenting during adolescence is associated with self-regulation. Besides parenting behaviors, the impact of the family context variables on the self-regulation ability of adolescents has also not been examined systematically in previous studies. Therefore, this study aims to examine the interplay among specific parenting behaviors, marital conflict as an indicator of family context and adjustment among adolescents using a conceptual model. Detailed rationale of the study and related literature review will be presented in the following sections.
The Purpose of the Study
The current study aims to examine a proposed mediational model in which self-regulation abilities of adolescents mediate the relationship between family context variables and adolescent outcomes (See Figure 1). This study also aims to investigate individual pathways of the antecedents and consequences of self- regulation abilities among early adolescents. Specifically, the purposes of this study are two-fold. First is to identify the associations between parental control behaviors, family context and adolescents’ adjustment including self-regulatory abilities, problem behaviors, and academic self-description and second is to examine different dimensions of parental control and its relevance with adolescent self- regulation.
Adolescent self-regulation is an area in which different theoretical perspectives have been used to explain numerous factors, including parenting having effects on self-regulation skills. The theoretical background behind this study is a synthesis of two models: contextual family variables including parental control and interparental conflict which have been shown to be critical elements in adolescents’ self-regulation (Brody & Ge, 2001; Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005), and its related behavioral outcomes (Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989). As shown in Figure 1, it is anticipated that contextual family variables will have an impact on adolescent outcomes through their effects on the self-regulatory skills of adolescents. Direct effects of parenting and marital conflict on adolescent outcomes will decrease when self-regulation abilities added to the model.
In this study, parenting is conceptualized as the specific parenting behaviors, including parental control behaviors. It is also aimed to examine the effects of different dimensions of parental control on adolescent self-regulation. Previous research indicated that both parenting and self-regulation have a unique (independent) impact on adjustment. These studies, however, have not investigated the unique contribution of specific dimensions of parental control on self-regulation and adjustment behaviors. Specifically, it is expected that parental psychological control would have a negative effect on adolescent adjustment especially by increasing emotional and conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems and by decreasing prosocial behaviors and academic self-concept. Based on the past literature and culture-specific expectations, it is also assumed that parental control and adjustment may have a curvilinear association. Whereas low and high levels of parental control would be associate with worst adjustment, moderate level of control might be related with the optimum level of adolescent functioning as well as positive academic self-concept. In the current study, multiple sources of informants, including mothers and adolescents will be used to test these assumed links. Relevant literature on self-regulation and parenting variables will be summarized below.
Reviews of the Literature on Self-Regulation
In the following section, the various definitions of self-regulation as well as main theoretical perspectives will be presented. The possible outcomes of self- regulation and the risk factors associated with the lack (or low levels) of self- regulation abilities will also be reviewed. This section will be concluded with a brief discussion on the associations among self-regulation, parenting, and interparental conflict.
Because the term self-regulation refers a complex psychological process related to socialization, there is no one standard definition describing self- regulation. Conventional definitions of self-regulation focus on the behaviors such as the ability to comply with requests (for children especially adults’) or the ability to adapt one’s behavior to particular situations. Other definitions of self regulation focus more on the control of cognitive systems, such as the ability to control
attention, to demonstrate effective thinking and problem solving behavior or to be able to engage in independent activities. In the literature, the concept of self- regulation across theoretical perspectives encompasses the control of emotions and behaviors as well as cognitive processing and ability to engage in prosocial behavior appropriate to a given age (Bronson, 2000).
According to Baumeister and Vohs (2003), the self has an executive function that takes action, chooses an option among many alternatives, filters irrelevant information, and determines appropriate responses. The self exerts control over itself by using both automatic and conscious processes to control and understand external world. How people resist temptations, effortfully persist, and carefully weigh options to select the most optimal course of action in order to reach their goals are main questions of the recent self-regulation theories. Different from Baumeister and Vohs’s (2003) conceptualization, Kopp (1982) defines the concept self regulation with respect to external behaviors. According to Kopp;
Self regulation is defined as an ability to comply with a request, to start and cease acts according to situational demands, to adjust the strength, incidence, and duration of acts in social settings, to delay desired object or goal, and to perform socially accepted behaviors in the absence of external monitors (pp.190).
However, self-regulation is not only an internalization of external expectations, but it also includes the self-initiated behaviors and goals (Fitzsimons & Bargh, 2004). Although some researchers draw distinction among the concepts of self-regulation, self-control, and self-discipline, these terms are often used interchangeably. Self-regulation is generally referred the broadest meaning, as it is comprised of both conscious and nonconscious forms of altering the self.
The term self-control has also been used close to the term of self-regulation, although it implies more deliberate and conscious process of altering the self. Self- control refers to the processes by which the self inhibits unwanted responses. It is also related to self-discipline, even though self-discipline is a much narrow concept referring to individual’s intentional plans in order to improve themselves in different domains (Baumeister, & Vohs, 2003).
The reviewed definitions of self-regulation have focused on the specific aspects of self-regulation construct with respect to their theoretical background. A
complete review of existing conceptualizations is beyond the scope of the current study, but two basic perspectives will be reviewed briefly; the processes and the products (outcomes) of self-regulation.
Self-Regulation Process: Conscious or Automatic Responses?
Delay of Gratification
The questions of what self-regulation is and what it involves depend on the theoretical perspective adopted. From the social and motivational psychology perspectives, an answer could be the ability to control and determine one’s own behaviors consciously and intentionally. The concept “delay of gratification” is one of the forms of self-regulation. According to Mischel and Ayduk (2004), the delay of gratification represents motivational process and the early form of self- regulation. The process of delaying gratification involves resistance to immediate temptation and regulation of impulsive behaviors typically in the context of more rewarding long-term goals. According to Funder, Block, and Block (1983), delay of gratification can be considered as a sub-form of the more general concept which is named as ego-control. Those with high ego-control can restrain or inhibit their impulses and postpone immediate gratifications. Without the ability to postpone the immediate gratification for the sake of eventual goals, people can not make plans for future, or work for long-term goals (Funder, Block, & Block, 1983). Fundamentally, this ability has an impact on self-regulation skills at the later period of life.
The delay of gratification ability has been used as the indicative of control and different experimental paradigms were developed to assess this ability. The delay of gratification paradigm has been conventionally measured by using the two- choice delay tasks. In these tasks, children are asked to make a choice between an immediately available treat and a more attractive treat at a later time. For example, a child may have to choose between a small toy and a larger, more attractive one, depending on her/his willingness to wait before reaching them. The longer the child is able to wait, the larger her/his reward will be. Another form of two-choice task is called “waiting game” in which while sitting in front of the two rewards (exposed or covered), the child is told to wait until the experimenter returns to the room. If
the child successfully waits for the experimenter to return, s/he will get the larger and more preferred reward. If the child cannot wait the experimenter, he/she may ring the bell to call experimenter, but he/she will only receive the small and less desirable reward. Although these experimental paradigms could be effectively used for younger children (from 1 to 7-years of age), these paradigms are usually ineffective or even problematic for the older children.
There are several reasons regarding why the delay of gratification abilities of older children hasn’t been tested successfully. First, it is relatively difficult to have realistic and non-trivial incentives for older children and early adolescents. Second, the meaningful delay intervals for the older group can span for days or weeks rather than a few minutes used for delay tasks in young children. Therefore, the delay of gratification abilities of adolescents and adults, as the indicative of self- regulation, is rarely studied in the previous studies. The delay of gratification abilities were measured only in a few studies during late childhood. Wulfert, Block, Ana, Rodriguez, and Colsman (2002) measured delay of gratification abilities of early adolescents from 14 to 17 years old using monetary incentives. Employing the experimental procedure used by Funder and Block (1989), researchers offered adolescents repeated choices between immediate payments of $4 after each session or a whole payment ($28), including interest payment at the end of the study. They found that, compared to adolescents who could delay gratification, those who choose the immediate payment showed more self-regulatory deficits. According to authors, however, in money incentive procedure, because participants might not trust the experimenter and wanted to save money owed them; they might have chosen the immediate offering (less money) rather than long-term reward (more money) (Wulfert, Block, Anna, Rodriguez, and Colsman, 2002).
To better explain the delay of gratification process, Carver and Scheider (1998) posited feedback loops in which individuals must become consciously aware of the discrepancy between the current and desired self-states, then intentionally choose to engage in action to ease this discrepancy. In a similar vein, in their “hot- cool system” model, Metcalfe and Mischel (1999) stated that individuals must consciously and intentionally attempt to control their responses to overcome the influences of the current environment. According to Metcalfe and Mischel (1999), these two types of cognitive processing, namely hot and cool systems, involve
distinct but yet interacting systems. The cool cognitive system is composed of a complex spatiotemporal and episodic representation and thoughts. It is also called as “know system”. The hot emotional system called “go system” involves quick emotional processing and responding on the basis of unconditional and conditional stimuli. Authors assert that self-regulation and goal-directed volition can be seen as the interaction between these two systems. The hot memory systems are activated and the cool systems are deactivated by a threatening stimulus. As a result, for example, when the hot system is activated by the delicious food cues for dieters, it is more difficult to postpone gratification.
Self-Regulatory Strength Model
A well-developed form of self-regulation involves a deliberate and conscious alteration of the self responses, such as making choices, inhibiting a tempting response, or making and carrying out plans. These actions and intensions require a source. According to the self-regulatory strength model proposed by Baumeister and colleagues (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998; Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994), these acts of the self requires some form of energy or strength which is limited in capacity. Each act of self-control consumes some of this limited resource and leaves less amount of available energy for the subsequent acts. When this limited resource is depleted (referred to as the “ego depletion” state), self-regulation failure becomes more likely. The core premise of the self-regulatory strength model is that people depend on a limited resource to engage in the acts of self-control. When this resource is reduced, the individual gets in a state of ego- depletion which makes him or her susceptible to self-regulation failure if the resource is not somehow replenished (Baumeister & Vohs, 2003).
The following two-task paradigm is used to manipulate self-regulatory strength in several “ego depletion” studies. Individuals in the ego depletion condition are asked to engage in two subsequent tasks both of which require the exertion of self-control, such as resisting the temptation of eating delicious chocolate candies and eating radishes instead (the first task) and then trying to solve a difficult puzzle (the second task). In contrast, for the participants in the control condition, only the second task that requires self-control exertion is used (e.g., eating chocolates instead of radishes in the first task and working on a difficult
puzzle in the second task). Participants in the control condition are expected to perform better than the ego depletion condition group in the second task. Experiments using this paradigm have demonstrated that ego-depletion impairs physical endurance, persistence, and emotion regulation; hampers reasoning on complex cognitive tasks; increases alcohol consumption; lets to fewer constructive responses to romantic partner’s destructive behaviors, and increases self-serving biases and attraction to an alternative partner in romantic relationships (see; Baumeister & Vohs, 2003; Rawn & Vohs, 2006, for extensive reviews).
In addition to the state depletion of regulatory resources, individuals may differ in terms of their chronic tendencies to exert self-control. In the trait perspective, the ability to alter one’s behaviors by controlling thoughts, emotions, impulses, and performance is termed as the trait self-control (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). Tangney et al. reported that trait self-control was positively associated with psychological adjustment, self-esteem, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, family cohesion, secure attachment, forgiveness, empathic concern, and perspective taking. Although the individual correlates of the trait self-control have been studied extensively, a few studies have examined the antecedents of self-control abilities (Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005).
Self-Regulation as an Automatic Process
The second theoretical view on self-regulation, which is called as automatic self-regulation, was advanced by Fitzsimons and Bargh (2004). These authors have proposed that self-regulation is the capacity of individuals to guide themselves toward important goal states. Thus, regulation of self involves a wide range of cognitive and motivational actions, such as acting quickly to reach goals, ignoring distractions, taking appropriate positions in response to different situations, and overcoming obstacles. Because of the wide range of the actions, it is concluded that self-regulation is more than willpower or a goal pursuit alone.
Bargh (1990) suggested an auto-motive model of self-regulation as an alternative (or complementary) model to the classic self-regulation theories focusing on conscious choices. According to this model, goal pursuit process which is an important part of the self-regulation process can proceed without any
conscious awareness and guidance. A critical question here is that how can goals operate our behaviors without our knowledge or awareness. First, Fitzsimons and Bargh (2004) proposed that the goals are assumed to be represented in the cognitive system as well as other cognitive constructs (see also Gollwitzer & Bargh, 2005). Second, since goal representations are capable of being activated automatically by the features of one’s environment, mere presence of situational cues that strongly associated with the pursuit of these goals. The auto-motive model assumes that similar to other cognitive structures (e.g., attitudes, stereotypes etc.), goals can be automatically activated in the mere presence of relevant environmental cues (Fitzsimons & Bargh, 2004; Greenwald, Banaji, 1995). Auto-motive model states that the automatic self-regulation can occur in the realms of cognition, emotion, and behavior.
Attention allocation and the capacity of working memory are assumed to be an important component of self-regulation success (Fitzsimons & Bargh, 2004). Past studies have demonstrated that even basic cognitive processes, such as attention and working memory can be regulated automatically. In their study, Chartland and Bargh (1996) showed that participants primed with impression formation goal did recall more behaviors performed by the target than those primed with a memorization goal. Consequently, results supported the expectation that the effect of activated goals is the same whether the activation is nonconscious or through an act of will. In addition to the automaticity of attention and memory, selective remembering and forgetting have also been subjected to regulation by nonconscious processes (Mitchell, Macrae, Schooler, Rowe, & Milne, 2002). Evidence from these studies indicates the key role of automatic processes on regulating and guiding cognition.
Although relatively a few studies have examined nonconscious emotion regulation processes, past studies have also demonstrated that individuals are able to regulate their emotions automatically (Gross, 1998, 1999). Using a process model of emotion regulation, Gross (1998; 1999) argues that emotion regulation activity may occur without conscious awareness, such as well-practiced routines that become automatic by time. Habits, for example, that reduce anxiety such as nail biting (Fitzsimons & Bargh, 2004) or smoking cigarette (Gross, 1999) are examples of automatic emotion regulation. Because of its repetition in lifespan,
these emotion-laden processes can be automatised by using minimal attentional capacity. However, it is unclear that whether activation of emotion regulation goals is possible and if so, whether they consume cognitive sources that are limited. Even though there are limited numbers of studies, there has been extensive research on nonconscious behavioral regulation.
As shown in previous studies, goals influencing social behavior can also be directed by nonconscious processes. In their study, Brandstätter, Lengfelder, and Gollwitzer (2001) showed that behavioral goals were activated by subliminal priming of goal cues. After being exposed to the achievement related words subliminally, participants performed better at a word-search puzzle. Similarly, after subliminal presentation of cooperation-relevant words, participants behaved more cooperative in a dilemma game than did non-primed ones (cited in Bargh & Chartland, 1999). Automatic processes of regulation cognition, emotion, and behavior have been shown consistency with the auto-motive model of Bargh (1990). However, the question of where these nonconscious regulation sources come from is still unanswered. According to auto-motive model, goals become associated with properties of specific circumstances as a result of their frequent and consistent occurrence. Consequently, mere the presence of environmental cues can activate goals people pursuit (Bargh, 1990; Fitzsimons & Bargh, 2004). Nevertheless, these are not the only necessary conditions for automatic regulation.
Implementation intentions (e.g., "If I encounter Situation X, then I'll perform Behavior Y") are also assumed to initiate automatic actions (Gollwitzer, 1993, 1999). Individuals construct a mental schema relating environmental cues and goal directed behavioral responses. When a situation occurs, the pre-set behavior is performed automatically without any conscious choice. By implementation intentions, people develop a mental set providing them automatic self-regulatory behaviors without any need for frequent and consistent experiences (Fitzsimons & Bargh, 2004).
Nonconscious self-regulation can function similar to conscious self- regulation, but more efficiently and consistently, and may also complement conscious kinds of self-control with an additional mechanism. Bargh and colleagues (2001) found that nonconscious goal pursuit possesses as similar to the key characteristics of conscious goal pursuit. People persist toward the goal
progress even when obstacles arise; they increase their goal strength when their goals are unfulfilled; and they tend to resume the goal pursuit after disruption. Alternative goals are automatically inhibited in order to maintain focus on the goal being pursued, and temptations seem automatic to activate higher order goals with which they interfere, reminding individuals of their important goal pursuits. Whether it is conscious or automatic process, exhibiting self-regulation always lead to certain consequences, which can be positive or negative in its nature for individuals.
Consequences of Self-Regulation Success and Failure
Past studies have examined the potential benefits and the costs of self- regulation processes. In an extensive study by Tangney, Baumeister, and Boone (2004), participants who scored low in self-control reported a wide range of negative outcomes including addiction, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, eating disorders and binge eating, unwanted pregnancy, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, debt and bankruptcy, lack of savings, violent and criminal behavior, underachievement in school and work, procrastination, smoking, and lack of exercise. Authors concluded that all of these negative outcomes could be reduced or eliminated if people controlled their behavior better. Specifically, people with high self-control (self-regulation ability) had better grades, as compared with people low in self-control. People with high self-control have also been found to show fewer impulse control problems, such as binge eating and alcohol use (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004). It is also found that people with high self-control reported better psychological adjustment with respect to psychopathological symptoms including somatization, obsessive-compulsive patterns, depression, anxiety, hostile anger, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism. They also reported higher self-acceptance and self-esteem. In addition to the individual difference variables, self-control has been found to be related with interpersonal functioning. For example, Eisenberg et al. (1997) found that high social functioning quality was predicted by high self-regulation. Moreover, research on early form of self-regulation; delay of gratification suggest a similar pattern in which effective capacity to delay gratification at early age predicted better interpersonal
relationships in early adulthood (Sethi, Mischel, Aber, Shoda, and Rodriguez, 2000).
Other studies have extended these findings for different outcomes, such as the costs of self-regulation. For example, Tice and Baumeister (1997) found that procrastinators (who regulate their time-limited performances ineffectively) suffered greater stress and health problems than other students and also ended up with poorer grades. Similarly, Engels, Finkenauer, den Exter Blokland, and Baumeister (2000) found that adolescents with low self-control were more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting, vandalism, and petty theft, and they also had reported worse relationships with their parents.
Up to now, literature on self-regulation was reviewed and it has been showed that when studying self-regulation, researchers usually tend to focus on either the processes of regulation, such as the motivation to self-regulate or using specific techniques for regulation or the outcomes of self-regulatory actions implying the degrees of success or failure associated with self-regulation. The current study will mainly focus on the outcomes of self-regulation.
Development of Self-Regulation and Implications for Parenting
Self-regulation ability is assumed be highly sensitive to developmental changes. In her review, Kopp (1982) summarized developmental path of self- regulation process. According to Kopp, the growth of self-regulation begins in infancy approximately from second month on and five stages were proposed for the development of self-regulation.
The first stage, called neurophysiological modulation, refers to the organization of reflex movements and the arousal states as well as modulation of external stimulus. The infant’s behaviors become more predictable starting from two to three months. In this stage, the caregiver’s role is viewed as an assisting one, responding to the infant’s varying states and proving external support and modulation.
The second stage of self-regulation development involves sensorimotor regulation. Kopp (1982) asserted that infant develops the ability to alter behavior in response to events occurring in the environment at approximately from three months to 12 months. Although this type of regulation is not intentional or driven
by any motivational processes, altering behaviors are discovered accidentally. Associations between these altering behaviors are strengthened through conditioning. According to Kopp (1982), caregiver’s sensitivity and responsiveness are also critical during this period. The reactions of caregiver during this period are typically in response to the basic habits of the infant (e.g., thumb sucking). Throughout this period, infant becomes highly dependent on the caregiver’s impressions.
Kopp’s (1982) third phase involves the beginning of the awareness of social demands, as well as some control skills from age 12 to 18 months. By this stage, the child starts to perform the ability to initiate, and stop activity in response to external demands. The key achievements during this stage are compliance with the demands of caregivers, and ability to initiate behavior. In this stage, child gains language skills, the caregiver is more of an organizer in directing the child’s behaviors (see also McCabe, Cunnington, and Brooks-Gunn, 2004).
In the fourth stage, self-control involves development of representational thinking and recollection of memory from the age of 18 to 24 months According to Kopp (1982), these cognitive developments provide child to remember previous events and modulate behaviors as a result. The child can also remember socially acceptable behaviors even in the absence of caregivers or other significant external control images. But there is limited flexibility in applying these memories to new situations.
In the fifth stage, Kopp (1982) proposed that the child starts to display clear evidence of self-regulation around the age of 2 years as the child’s awareness of self emerges. In her review, she distinguished between self-control and self- regulation and claims that self-control precedes self-regulation by emphasizing on the contingency rules. She stated that:
Self-regulation in contrast to self-control involves the ability to use numerous contingency rules to guide behavior, to maintain appropriate monitoring for appreciable lengths of time and any number of situations, and to learn to produce a series of approximations to standards of expectations. The shift from self- control to self-regulation, though probably quite subtle and gradual, parallels the growth of cognitive skills that is also gradual in the early preschool period (Kopp, 1982; pp 210).
However, Kopp (1982) suggests that true self-regulation cannot emerge until the preschool years when the child becomes capable of complying with others’ requests and behave appropriately in the lack of external monitoring. During these years, children are increasingly capable of internal self-regulation using rules, goal- directed plans and are expected to be able to regulate their own emotions and behaviors in an appropriate way (Grolnick, Deci, and Ryan, 1997). Sethi, Mischel, Aber, Shoda, and Rodriguez (2000) claimed that children at preschool years are expected to “delay, defer, and accept substitutions without becoming aggressive or disorganized by frustration, challenge or fatigue”. Although several studies have emphasized young child’s self-regulation skills, few studies have focused on regulation abilities of early adolescences (Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005). Considering these fragile years, youth’s failure and success of self- regulation carry an important role. Therefore, the current study aims to investigate the self-regulatory abilities during early adolescences.
The quality of caregiver-child relationship during the preschool years impacts the maturation process of regulatory abilities. There is a consensus in the literature that self-regulation follows a pathway from external to internal control during early childhood (Kopp, 1982). The child learns self-regulatory skills from their caregivers, especially from their mothers. Therefore, the influence of caregivers in the development of self-regulation is of utmost importance. Development of self-regulation during childhood is frequently attributed to parental socialization through which individuals adopt and internalize beliefs, worldviews, and behaviors consistent with their parents’ values (Kopp, 1982).
According to socialization theories on parenting, children’s socialization is facilitated by various parental behaviors, skills, and attitudes which are embedded within the broader context of interparental and parent-child relationships (Laible & Thompson, 2007). Parents’ actions communicate the limits of acceptable behavior and model regulatory strategies, while the relational context may increase or decrease the likelihood that children will adopt behaviors prescribed by caregivers. For example, a mother’s repeated attempts to model strategies for controlling negative emotions in public may be ignored if the mother-child relationship is highly hostile or distant. The role of the parental behaviors and interparental context in self-regulation will be briefly reviewed in the following section.
Parenting as a Socialization Instrument
Children’s socialization is facilitated through discrete parenting behaviors (e.g., positive reinforcement for acceptable behaviors, or harsh punishment for unacceptable emotional displays), which are embedded within the broader context of parent-child relationships characterized by mutually-responsive interactions, or nonsynchronized, unfulfilling exchanges (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). Parental socialization studies have focused primarily on two problems: (1) understanding, describing, and organizing child raising behaviors of parents, and (2) determining whether and to what extent these child-rearing behaviors affect cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development of children.
The term parenting includes a vast number of conceptualizations such as parenting practices, parenting styles, and parenting attitudes. Parenting practices are behaviors defined by specific content and socialization goals. Parental attendance to school activities or spanking is both examples of parenting practices. Parenting styles are defined as a constellation of attitudes toward the child that are communicated to the child and create an emotional climate in which parenting behaviors are expressed (Darling, & Steinberg, 1993; Stevenson-Hinde, 1998).
As one of the pioneers of parenting studies, Baumrind (1991a) investigated the patterns of parental authority or the manners by which parents influence their offspring to become socially responsible and independent. Her studies resulted in three types of parenting styles: the authoritarian, the permissive, and the authoritative parenting styles. These parenting typologies are based on the concepts of responsiveness and demandingness and how a parent’s uses these styles to develop social competence in their children. Baumrind (1996) describes responsiveness and demandingness as the following:
Responsiveness refers to the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and acquiescent to children’s needs and demands…Demandingness refers to the claims that parents make on children to become integrated into the family and community by their maturity expectations, supervision, disciplinary efforts, and willingness to confront a disputative child (pp. 410-411).
An authoritarian parenting style is conceptualized by the parent’s attempt to shape, control, and evaluate the behavior and attitudes of their children in
accordance with an absolute set of standards. Parents tend to emphasize obedience, respect to authority, tradition, and reservation of order (Baumrind, 1996). She showed that children from this type of parenting usually demonstrated low levels independence and social responsibility. In authoritarian parenting, parents are detached, controlling and less warm than other parents. These parents are highly demanding but they are low on responsiveness to their child (Baumrind, 1996; 1991a).
Parents with permissive style are tolerant and accepting toward their child’s impulses. There are few demands placed on the child and parents used the least amount of punishment. Children of these parents were found to have less social responsibility, impulse control, independence, and self-reliance as compared to the children of parents with other parenting styles. In permissive parenting, children have parents who exercise a lack of control, are non-demanding and relatively responsiveness. Moreover, these children are less willing to persist when frustration is encountered, and demonstrate an unwillingness to comply or be responsible (Baumrind, 1991a).
In authoritative parenting style, there is a clear expectation of mature behavior from the child and obvious standard setting by parents. Children whose parents are authoritative in their parenting style are the most self-reliant, self- controlled, explorative, and content. These parents exhibit a combination of high control and positive encouragement of their child’s autonomy and independent endeavors. These parents enforce rules and standards using directives and consequences when necessary. They encourage their children to be individuals and independent. An authoritative parent can be summarized in the following three words: “warmth, control, and democracy” (Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992). Authoritative parenting is related with the most positive outcomes as compared to other styles
In addition to this typology, Baumrind’s early research focused on the role of the parental authority on child development. She began by articulating and extending the concept of parental control. In her conceptualization, the concept of control was defined as strictness, use of physical punishment, consistency of punishment. However, she also mentioned that parent’s willingness to socialize their child is conceptually distinct from parental restrictiveness. From this
perspective, she used the concept parental control to refer to parent’s attempts to integrate their offspring into the family and society by demanding behavioral compliance (cited in Darling & Steinberg, 1993).
As in Baumrind’s (1991a) parenting typology, in several theoretical perspectives, parenting has been described on the basis of different developmental outcomes focusing on different socialization processes. Moreover, many researchers have defined the concept of parenting style on the dimensions of control exerted within the family and nurturance. For example, one of the earliest classifications on parental behaviors, Baldwin (1948) identified parental behaviors as the amount of control, democracy, and activity. After this identification, Becker (1964; cited in Baumrind, 1991a) proposed her parenting classification. She described three aspects of parental behavior that she labeled; love versus hostility, restrictiveness versus permissiveness, and anxious emotional involvement versus calm detachment. Subsequently, Schaefer (1965a; 1965b) proposed his conceptualization about parenting and developed the Children’s Report of Parental Behavior Inventory (CRPBI) which is one of the earliest indexes of parenting. Based on Schaefer’s (1965a) factor analysis of ratings of parental behavior, parenting has been started to be described as three basic dimensions, acceptance versus rejection, psychological control versus psychological autonomy, and firm control versus lax control. The results of the factor analyses in previous studies revealed that acceptance versus rejection dimension consisted of parenting characterized at positive side by positive evaluation, sharing, expression of affection, emotional support, and at the negative side by irritability, negative evaluation, and rejection. Psychological control versus psychological autonomy dimension were intrusiveness, suppression of aggression, control through guilt, and parental direction. However, a few aspects such as possessiveness, protectiveness, strictness, punishment, and nagging were cross-loaded (Schaefer, 1965a). Finally, the firm versus lax control dimension consisted of lax discipline and extreme autonomy at the lax control pole and punishment and strictiveness at the firm control pole. Following these parenting studies, Barber (1994; 1996) reviewed parent-child studies extensively, and concluded the two basic dimensions that are parental control and support, which are widely used in the recent studies.
The term parental control has a number of dimensions and a rather complex structure that lead to ambiguities and controversies regarding whether it is actually beneficial or detrimental to children (Barber, 2002; Grolnick, 2003). Grolnick (2003) emphasized this ambiguity by pointing different conceptualizations of the term “control”. The concept of control may be attributed to the often equated notions of parents “being in control”, normally related to positive developmental effects on children, and “being controlling” usually associated with negative developmental effects on children.
A parent who is “in control” provides a rich environment that can be optimal to child development by making age-appropriate demands, setting limits, and monitoring behavior appropriately (Grolnick, 2003). This form of control is most often referred to as behavioral control in the literature (Barber, 1996). A parent who is “controlling” emphasizes on compliance, pressures children toward specified goals, and discourages interactive discussion (Grolnick, 2003). These parents do not respect their children’s viewpoints. This form of the control usually is referred the term psychological control. Various numbers of dimensions of this type of control have been labeled in a broad range (e.g., conditional regard, love withdrawal, corporal punishment, discipline, developmentally inappropriate maturity demands, intrusiveness, punishment, guilt induction, verbal restriction etc.). This distinction between psychological and behavioral control is also based on two main assumptions that is related to the requirements of child development. Firstly, it includes a sufficient level of psychological autonomy by which child learns social interactions to develop personal identity. Another fundamental presupposition is that adequate regulation of behavior enables child to learn that social interactions have rules and structures. These rules and structures have to be recognized in order to be a competent member of society (Barber, Olsen, & Shagle, 1994).
Researchers have also interested in the effects of control on child or adolescent development. The effects of control often vary from weak to strong, from positive to negative, and from linear to non-linear (Barber, 2001; 1996). The majority of studies on parental control have been focused on the two main areas
psychological and behavioral control. These two types of control will be reviewed in the following section
Interest in studies on parental psychological control began in early 1990s as a result of the work by Steinberg and his colleagues (Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992). Although typological or aggregated approaches to parenting, such as Baumrind’s parenting typology, have been useful in understanding the general approaches of parenting and their impacts on child development, Steinberg and his colleagues (1992) asserted that more detailed analysis of specific parenting behaviors would be helpful in providing new understanding regarding the etiologies of specific types of child adjustment. Steinberg and his colleagues (1992) separated authoritative parenting into three distinct components: acceptance, behavioral control, and psychological control/autonomy granting. They showed that these components have differential effects on adolescent outcomes, such as academic achievement, behavioral problems, and internalizing problems (Barber, 1996; Gray & Steinberg, 1999). The recent research findings also showed that each parenting dimension is related to the child functioning in unique and specific ways (Barber, 1996; Bean, Bush, McKenry, & Wilson, 2003).
There is a consensus in the literature that psychological control can be defined as an intrusive and manipulative form of control that intrude into the psychological and emotional development of child or adolescent (e.g. feelings, verbal expressions, identity, attachment bonds, etc.) (Barber, 2001; 1996).
A psychologically controlled context prevents child from the development a healthy awareness and perception of self for several reasons. First of all, psychologically controlling parent denigrates the child implicitly and do not provide adequate opportunities to develop sense of personal efficacy (Barber, 1996). Supporting this, research findings have shown that psychological control is positively related with internalized problem behaviors (Stone, Buehler, & Barber, 2002; Olsen et.al., 2002; Barber, Olsen & Shagle, 1994; Fauber, Forehand, Thomas, & Wierson, 1990), such as depression (Barber, 1996), low ego-strength (Hauser, et.al, 1984), and anxiety (Pettit & Laird, 2002). Past research also revealed
a link between psychological control and externalized problems (Barber, 1996; Gray & Steinberg, 1999).
Barber and Harmon (2002) classified the specific descriptions of parental psychological control into two main types; manipulative and constraining parental control. They defined manipulative parenting as an attempt to shape the children’s behavior or adjust the emotional balance between parents and children by using three main strategies: guilt induction, love withdrawal, and instilling anxiety. Constraining parents repress their children’s verbal behavior and inhibit the children’s self-discovery and expression. In addition to these two basic dimensions, other characterizations of parental behaviors and/or attitudes including personal attack, high parental expectations, and erratic emotional behaviors are considered neither manipulative nor constraining but have been linked to psychological control (Barber, 1996; Barber & Harmon, 2002).
In this study, the manipulative type of parental psychological control is taken into account. Therefore, the main focus of the current study is to examine the different manipulative psychological control behaviors and their effects on self- regulation and child outcomes. It has been shown that the constraining type of parental psychological control is mainly associated with autonomy support involving a control over children’s self-discovery and expression by limiting verbal behavior (Barber, 2005). Manipulative parental psychological control is exerted using a number of controlling behaviors. Some of them will be reviewed below.
There is debate regarding whether guilt induction is beneficial or detrimental to child development. According to Grolnick (2003), regardless of the valance of the effect on the child, guilt induction is used by parents with good intentions to provide the best for their children. Similarly, Tangney and Dearing (2002) defined inducing guilt as a motivation of the child in a more “moral direction” to precipitate corrective action. In fact, the presence of guilt induction has been linked to the development of prosocial behaviors, including altruism, empathy, and social perspective taking (Tangney, & Dearing, 2002). However, it is also claimed that guilt induction has the potential to do harm by fostering resentment that can negatively affect familial relationships and by producing
exaggerated feelings of responsibility that overwhelm the child and focus the child’s attention on the needs of others (Barber, & Harmon, 2002). The different views on the impact of guilt induction may be partly attributable to the constructs of reasoning or induction (Smith, 1983). On the one hand, reasoning emphasizes the negative conclusions of child’s misbehaviors on others and is thought to be effective because it develops the empathic abilities. On the other hand, induction reveals the parent’s displeasure with the child’s behaviors and it controls the child through communications or actions that lead the child to believe that s/he has caused the parent emotional pain. It is thought that the latter form is more emotionally intense and manipulative than reasoning.
Another form of manipulating psychological control is withdrawal of love from child. Love withdrawal implies for the child that the parents are dissatisfied with the child’s behavior and try to control the child through separation or threat of separation from the parent, so that the child loses parental attention or affection (Grolnick, 2003). Love withdrawal is manipulative in the sense that the parents’ affection and involvement is conditional (Barber & Harmon, 2002). Children’s need for love, attention, and approval from their parents are critical aspects that last across the lifespan. Practices based on the manipulation of these needs and threatening the child with the loss of support are expected to have detrimental effects on children and may lead to low self-esteem, and internalizing problems (Grolnick, 2003).
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