Spotlight on Maternal Perceptions of Child Behavior: A Daily Diary Study with Child Welfare-Involved Mothers

Academic Article


  • Research has documented a variety of factors—including stress, attributions, and anger—that may increase parents’ risk for child maltreatment, but most of this research is based on low-risk, community samples of parents’ perceptions about themselves and their children. Moreover, parents are usually asked to provide self-reports wherein they summarize their general impressions distal from actual parenting. The current study employed experience sampling methods with a high-risk sample. Mothers identified for child maltreatment reported on their stress and coping as well as their perceptions regarding children’s misbehavior and good behavior using end-of-day surveys for up to four weeks. Only maternal reports of children’s good behavior based on personality and mood were relatively stable; stress, coping, and reports on child misbehavior varied considerably across days, implying that contributors to daily fluctuations in these factors could represent intervention targets. Although maternal perceptions of misbehavior severity, anger, and negative attributions were interrelated, only anger about misbehavior related to maternal stress levels. Mothers who reported better coping perceived their child’s behavior more favorably that day and were more likely to ascribe positive behavior to the child’s mood and personality. Current findings highlight the importance of positive coping mechanisms in parental perceptions of children; such findings should be replicated to determine how to maximize parental resources that reduce child maltreatment risk.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rodriguez CM; Silvia PJ
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 2