Date of Award

Winter 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

James F. Paulson

Committee Member

Matt R. Judah

Committee Member

Mark W. Scerbo


Understanding the cognitive processes involved in harsh parenting behavior would have broad implications for parenting interventions and training programs. Few studies have addressed how parental stressors, specifically infant crying, can influence individuals’ self-regulatory cognitive capacities and ultimately their preference for harsh parenting strategies. Furthermore, little research has explored the link between these cognitive processes and harsh parenting preferences; thus, little work has been done to establish a true causal relationship. This study examined the role of behavioral inhibition in harsh parenting preferences when individuals were exposed to an infant crying noise.

Participants (n = 129) were undergraduate students (Mage = 19.97 years; 79.8% female; 47.3% African American, 39.5% Caucasian) who were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: (1) white noise and (2) infant crying noise. During the experiment they completed a cognitive task to capture their behavioral inhibition as well as measures of emotion regulation, parenting attitudes/beliefs, and other predictors of harsh parenting. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that infant crying noise did not moderate the relationship between behavioral inhibition and harsh parenting preferences. However, as hypothesized, the analyses indicated that lower behavioral inhibition predicted harsher physical parenting preferences. In addition, gender differences in harsh parenting preferences were explored using analysis of covariance analyses, which indicated that males and females did not differ in harsh parenting preferences. However, the current study did not collect enough males to meet power criteria, which may explain this non-significant effect. Methodological implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.


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