Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Hershberger, Wayne A., 1931-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Child care--Psychological aspects; Control (Psychology); Child Abuse Potential Inventory; Child abuse--Psychological aspects


The present study was designed to test the notion, derived from control theory, that subjects with high potential for abuse would have different reference values (or wants) relative to child care than would subjects with low potential for abuse. More specifically, the study hypothesized that subjects who scored high on the Child Abuse Potential (CAP) Inventory would want to not hear an infant cry, whereas subjects who scored low on the CAP inventory would want to hear an infant not cry. Subjects' overt behavior was examined while they simultaneously participated in a baby-sitting exercise and watched television (TV). Based on the assumed difference in reference values, it was hypothesized that high-CAP subjects would exhibit higher average TV volume during the babysitting exercise than would low-CAP subjects. A total of 600 female, college undergraduates were administered the CAP inventory. A total of 20 high-CAP and 20 low-CAP unmarried, non-parent, subjects were selected to attend a subsequent baby-sitting experiment where they were allowed to watch a popular movie on (TV) while directing a nurse to tend a computer-controlled crying "infant." Subjects' TV volumes and the volume of the infant cries were recorded each second. Data analysis showed that both low- and high-CAP subjects increased the TV volume with increased time at the baby-sitting task. Low- and high-CAP subjects' frequency, latency, and duration of nurse calls were statistically similar. High-CAP subjects, however, exhibited significantly higher TV volume one second before their nurse calls. An implication of the data from this experiment, involving overt behavior, is consistent with the implications of previous research, involving covert, physiological data: high-CAP individuals are acutely sensitive to infant cries.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [55]-61)


v, 74 pages




Northern Illinois University

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