An investigation of adult attachment and parental style

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This study was a partial test of the theoretical model of the ability to parent proposed by Ricks (1985). The purpose of the study was to examine the variables of marital quality, model of self, the recalled quality of attachment to ones' parents and sex of subject as related to current parenting attitudes.

The Mother-Father-Peer Scale (MFP) was used to measure recalled attachment to parent (Epstein, 1983). Parenting attitudes were measured on two scales designed by Itkin (1952), an Acceptance-Rejection scale and a Strict-Permissive scale. One question from Spanier's (1976) Dyadic Adjustment Scale was used to assess marital harmony. Model of self was measured using the Self-Rating scale from the Family Assessment Measure (Skinner, Steinhauer, & Santa-Barbara, 1984).

There were 126 subjects in the study, 60 males and 66 females. Pearson ṟ correlations were calculated between all the variables. A parenting attitude favoring acceptant, positive treatment of children was related to a more permissive attitude toward control of children. Memories of maternal independence-encouraging behavior were related to a parenting attitude favoring strict control of children. Multiple regression analysis suggested that self-rating of family functioning and sex were the best predictors of a parental attitude of acceptance versus rejection. However, these variables explained only 26% of the variance in acceptance-rejection scores.

The results of the analyses offered only limited support for the model under study. Based on a median split of the theoretical ranges on the parenting scales, subjects were classified using Maccoby and Martin's (1983) model of parenting styles. All the parents in this study were classified as having parenting attitudes falling into the authoritarian-reciprocal quadrant of this model. Such parents would be considered as being accepting yet controlling in their behavior toward their children. This finding was interpreted as indicating that all the subjects in this study had the ability to parent. This lack of dispersion on the parenting classification could have contributed to the lack of statistical significance to completely support the portion of the model being tested.