Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Lovejoy, M. Christine

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Individual differences; Human information processing--Psychological aspects


Parental beliefs have long been recognized as important variables in the parent-child socialization process. Research on parental beliefs has begun to shift from studies of general parent attitudes toward studies of how parents process information about specific children within specific situations. Studies of parent social cognition have been directed toward clarifying those variables which affect information processing. An explanatory model of adults’ information processing about child behavior, including multiple predictors of encoding and recall, was developed in this study. The model's exogenous variables were adult depression and adult control attributions for failed adult-child interactions. The model allowed for a test of the independent effects of these variables at different stages of information processing. Participants were asked to complete the Revised Parent Attribution Test, General Behavior Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory. They watched two videotaped adult-child interactions, in which the children exhibited positive (e.g., smiled) and negative (e.g., threw puzzle pieces) behaviors. Participants pushed a computer button each time they believed the child exhibited a meaningful unit of behavior. Participants believed they would interact with one of the children. After viewing the distractor videotape, participants completed a free recall measure for child behaviors on the stimulus videotape. Path coefficients for the explanatory model were derived from a series of multiple regression analyses. Contrary to predictions, a significant negative relationship was found between threat orientation and unitization rate. Furthermore, no relationship was found between: (a) depression and unitization, (b) depression and recall of negative child behavior, and (c) unitization and recall of negative child behavior, which were predicted to be positive pathways. Overall, the results failed to support the hypothesized relationships between depression, threat orientation, unitizing, and recall of negative child behavior. However, the unexpected negative correlation between threat-orientation and unitization suggests directions for future research. Specifically, the effects of threat orientation need to be examined across a range of carefully defined behaviors that extend from positive to highly aversive. First, however, the many problems encountered in measuring social information processing in this analogue design need to be addressed.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [83]-89).


iv, 121 pages




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