Biased parental attributions, or biased thinking about the cause of children’s behavior, are linked to harsh and negative parenting in parents of children with disruptive behavior disorders. However, little is known about moderators of this link.
The current study explored whether child callous-unemotional (CU) traits may be a moderator of the association between parental attributions and parenting behaviors.
Data were collected from 121 parents of children (M = 10.27; SD = 1.06) clinic-referred for disruptive behavior difficulties. Parents reported on parental attributions (parent-causal, child-responsible), parenting behaviors (positive parenting, inconsistent discipline, poor supervision), and children’s CU traits.
Results of the path analysis demonstrated that parent-causal attributions were associated with less positive and more negative parenting behavior while child-responsible attributions were associated with more positive parenting behaviors. High levels of child-responsible attributions combined with elevated child CU traits were associated with poorer supervision.
Building on existing research on parental attributions, the results provide limited preliminary evidence that the association between child-directed attributions and negative parenting may be moderated by children’s stable trait characteristics.