Examining Gender-Specific Modeling in the Intergenerational Transmission of Parenting Style and Physical Child Abuse Risk

Academic Article


  • Although research demonstrates intergenerational transmission of parenting attitudes and child abuse risk, greater clarity on the potential mechanisms in this process is needed. Role-specific modeling refers to an individual’s tendency to adopt the attitudes or behaviors of those in roles they themselves expect to ultimately occupy. How gender influences role-specific modeling—namely, how emerging adults align with same-gender parents—has not been well examined in this intergenerational transmission. The current study used a multi-informant approach to examine the associations between emerging adults’ child abuse potential, parenting style history, and expected parenting styles and their parents’ child abuse potential and parenting styles. Further, whether maternal and paternal parenting styles were concordant versus discordant was also considered in relation to emerging adults’ child abuse potential. In a multi-phase study, the first phase included 867 emerging adults; the second phase included a sample of these emerging adults’ mothers (n = 237) and fathers (n = 176). Both mothers’ and fathers’ parenting style and abuse potential related to emerging adults’ abuse potential, with more pronounced effects for daughters. Results indicated gender-specific modeling was not apparent in emerging adults’ abuse risk, alternatively suggesting potential cross-gender effects. Concordance in both parents adopting an authoritative parenting style resulted in emerging adults’ significantly lower child abuse risk compared to those with any authoritarian parenting history. Findings indicated the importance of mothers’ and fathers’ use of an authoritative approach to parenting, which may be critical for the prevention of intergenerationally sustained harsh and abusive parenting.
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    Author List

  • Gonzalez S; Rodriguez CM; Paine E