Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

James F. Paulson

Committee Member

Darlene G. Colson

Committee Member

Scott M. Debb

Committee Member

Kathrin Hartmann

Committee Member

Michelle L. Kelley


Harsh parenting techniques such as yelling and spanking are commonly used in the United States to discipline children, despite the evidence that harsh parenting has a negative sequalae for children that can persistent into adulthood. Socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity have been identified as two key determinants of harsh parenting. The stressors associated with military service and parenting within military culture place families at increased risk for harsh parenting and child maltreatment. Having a better understanding of how sociodemographic factors influence parenting behaviors within the military culture may help to develop psychoeducational and parenting programs as well as therapeutic interventions to decrease rates of harsh parenting, and ultimately reduce the rates of child abuse and neglect in this population. Therefore, the current study explored the relationships between SES and harsh parenting, race, and harsh parenting in a sample of military and civilian parents. The influence of military culture, parenting beliefs, marital conflict, psychological distress, and parenting stress on harsh parenting practices was also investigated. Data were examined from 501 parents and no significant differences were found between military and civilian parents. However, hypotheses were partially supported as exploratory analyses found significant mediating effects of marital conflict and parenting stress on the relationship between psychological distress and harsh parenting. Higher levels of psychological distress were associated with higher levels of martial conflict and parenting stress which were related to reporting higher rates of harsh parenting. Overall, the findings provide support for the process model of parenting and spillover theories.


The VIRGINIA CONSORTIUM PROGRAM IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY is a joint program of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University.


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