Midwest Social Sciences Journal


In order to explore how parental styles and maternal cognitions interacted with difficult extended discipline episodes called power bouts, 88 mothers were categorized as either Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, or Uninvolved. Mothers then read six hypothetical vignettes about a 4-year-old child misbehaving and were asked how they would respond to the child and how they would respond a second time if the child did not behave. These open-ended responses were coded on a scale of increasing power assertiveness with 0 being giving in and 5 indicating using punishment through spanking, removal of privilege, or time out. Using Bell and Chapman’s (1986) Control System’s Model to understand how mothers of different parenting styles would respond in a power bout, it was hypothesized that Authoritative mothers would become increasingly power assertive in order to control the child, but that Authoritarian mothers would higher levels of power assertion over both responses while permissive parents would be consistently lower in power assertion. Results confirmed the hypothesis for Authoritative mothers, but Permissive mothers also increased power assertive responses like Authoritative mothers. Authoritarian mothers were consistent but did not react as power assertively as anticipated. Results are discussed in terms of how power bouts interact with parental cognition and discipline strategies in conjunction with Bell and Chapman’s model but could be different for Authoritative parents compared to other parental styles.