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- maternal stress; maternal distress; parenting techniques; child externalizing behavior
Child behavior problems are commonly reported difficulties within the education community and one of the largest referral reasons for parents seeking therapeutic services for their child. These behaviors can escalate to deviant and harmful behaviors that affect a child?s home life, academic success, and relations with family and peers. Current research has identified several parenting variables related to child behavior problems. This study considered the partial mediating role of parenting techniques on the relation between maternal characteristics and child behavior problems as reported by the parents and teachers of Head Start children. Participants in the study were 161 parents with children enrolled in Head Start at one of three programs in Texas or Mississippi. Results suggested that inconsistent discipline partially mediates the relation between maternal distress and parent reported child hyperactivity and aggression. Inconsistent discipline partially mediates the relation between maternal stress and parent-reported child hyperactivity and aggression. Parental involvement was found to be significantly related to childhood attention problems above and beyond maternal distress or stress and relevant demographic characteristics; however, it did not partially mediate those relations. Analyses involving teacher reported child behaviors did not show the same mediational effects. SEM analyses indicated that overall models of partial mediation demonstrated good fit. A major advantage to this study is the collection of data at three Head Start programs in two states that service small city / rural populations, an often underrepresented sample in empirical research. Implications of this project include: (a) a better understanding of the maternal variables most influential on child behavior that can be used to enhance curricula for parent training; (b) more precise screening of at-risk families by professionals that will continue to promote a focus on the whole family and allow for multiple pathways of healthy development for the child (e.g., through direct work with child and through the parents); and (c) continued consideration of the importance of ethnicity on these relations that will continue to foster a respectful and informed therapeutic relationship between professionals and families of young, atrisk children.