Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

James Paulson

Committee Member

Alan Meca

Committee Member

Jennifer Flaherty


The use of harsh parenting strategies as a form of disciplining child misbehavior has been identified as an underlying factor for child abuse; thus, it is important to examine underlying causal factors for harsh parenting. While not originally formulated around harsh parenting, social information processing models of reactive aggression have highlighted internal attributions and impulsivity as key processes in social decision-making. Therefore, the current study integrated these theoretical models to explore how these processes are involved in harsh parenting behaviors and how these processes may interact in the context of environmental factors such as household chaos. Results revealed significant direct effects of internal parent attributions and impulsivity on harsh parenting behaviors. These effects remained significant above and beyond identified covariates (i.e., race/ethnicity, traditional authoritarian beliefs, cognitive reappraisal in emotion regulation, and negative affect). Furthermore, race/ethnicity and negative affect were no longer significant after internal parent attributions and impulsivity were entered into the full model. However, results revealed that impulsivity did not moderate the positive relationship between internal parent attributions and reported harsh parenting behavior. Furthermore, the study did not observe a conditional effect of household chaos on the proposed moderating effect of impulsivity. Nonetheless, these nonsignificant results may be indicative of limitations in the study’s attempts to recruit of a diverse parent sample. Future studies should closely examine interactions within a more diverse parent sample that reflects higher dysfunctional impulsivity.


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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