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Maternal Attributions and Observed Maternal Behaviour: Are They Linked?

  • Charlotte Wilson (a1), Frances Gardner (a2), Jennifer Burton (a2) and Sarah Leung (a3)

Mothers of children with behaviour problems have more negative attributions about their children than other mothers; they also report reacting differently to their children's misbehaviour. The present study explored whether maternal attributions were associated with actual maternal behaviour observed in the home. Fifty-seven mothers and their 3-year-old children were observed in the home carrying out a range of everyday tasks and behaviour was coded using Gardner's observational coding scheme. Mothers were interviewed about their attributions, using an adaptation of Walker's PAQ and level of behaviour problems was measured using the Child Behaviour Check List (CBCL). Mothers who thought the causes of the child's misbehaviour were more internal to the child had more conflict with their child, used more negative strategies and were more likely to use reactive strategies only, even when controlling for level of behaviour problem in the child. Mothers who thought the causes of the child's misbehaviour were more stable were more likely to use reactive strategies only and mothers who thought the causes of the child's misbehaviour were more global used fewer positive strategies. This study is part of the growing body of literature that suggests observed maternal behaviour is associated with maternal attributions.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to Charlotte Wilson, School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, Elizabeth Fry Building, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK. E-mail:
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Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
  • ISSN: 1352-4658
  • EISSN: 1469-1833
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioural-and-cognitive-psychotherapy
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