Psychology Department researchers study parenting cognitions

Parents’ cognitions have a key role in shaping parents’ socialization practices, and consequently, children’s outcomes.

Dr. Liane Peña Alampay and Rosanne Jocson’s (2011) paper, published in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice, focuses on Filipino mothers’ and fathers’ parenting cognitions, particularly mean level and within-family similarities and differences in Filipino mothers’ and fathers’ 1) childrearing attitudes (whether traditional, which emphasizes adult authority and child obedience; or modern, which values independence and self-direction in children) and 2) attributions or explanations for successes and failures in interactions with children (whether uncontrollable, such as due to luck; child-controlled, such as the disposition of the child; or adult-controlled, such as the parent applying the appropriate approach with the child).

Dr. Liane Alampay and Roseanne Jocson

Data from mothers and fathers from 95 families was analyzed; the families are part of the first wave of data from the Philippine component of the Parenting Across Cultures project, which is led by Dr. Alampay.  

Only in modernity of childrearing attitudes were there significant differences between mothers and fathers in the sample, with mothers exhibiting more modern views than fathers overall. Mothers were more likely to espouse progressive attitudes such as granting children more agency and independence and encouragement to express themselves. This may be because mothers have more current information about childrearing, given that they spend more time managing the child and the home.

But when comparing mothers and fathers within the same family, traditional beliefs that children should obey adult authority and submit to parental directives are still equally held by both genders, perhaps due to the prevailing, well-entrenched sociocultural values of respect and obedience towards elders. 

In terms of attributions, there were no overall parent gender differences. Both mothers and fathers generally attributed successful child outcomes to uncontrollable factors (luck), but attributed negative outcomes to adult control or parent factors.

Thus, parents perceive themselves as having more control or responsibility over failed child-care situations. This is consistent with other studies reporting Filipino parents’ beliefs that their role is to mold or shape a “passive” child to develop proper reason and self-control. That parental action or responsibility is elicited more in negative than in successful child outcomes also suggests that parental factors may be less imperative or called upon when the child is well behaved, but are crucial when the child misbehaves.  

In contrast to the foregoing, mothers and fathers in the same family did not hold concordant attributions. Fathers, having relatively fewer experiences with and knowledge of children, may likely have different views and explanations from their spouses, who interact more with children in various childcare scenarios.  

What might be the implications of the foregoing for parenting and child outcomes? Literature suggests that traditional childrearing attitudes are associated with more power-assertive discipline strategies, such as corporal punishment. On the other hand, higher adult control has been associated with less punitive and abusive childrearing strategies, compared to families where adults perceive themselves as having less control relative to children and other factors.

In terms of similarities and differences within families, ideally, mothers and fathers should convey to children a solidarity, consistency, and predictability in parenting attitudes and behaviors. In Western literature, lack of consonance between parents has been linked to marital conflict and ineffectual socialization, which can lead to child behavior problems and other negative outcomes. Future research should determine if such consequences obtain in the Philippine context.  

Dr. Liane Peña Alampay is Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences. Rosanne Jocson is an Instructor and MA graduate of the Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences. Click here for more information on the Parenting Across Cultures project.