Is there a relationship between parent controllability attributions and problematic behaviour in children with developmental disabilities?

L. Woolfson, R. Taylor, L. Mooney

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book


The aim of the current study was to investigate the role of parental attributions of adult and child controllability as a moderator in the well-established relationship between child developmental disability and behavior problems. The influence of parental attributions of adult and child controllability on the relationship between problem behaviors and disability was explored in mothers of children with developmental disabilities (DD) (N =20), with a mean age of nine years and three months (SD =24.6 months); and in mothers of typically developing (TD) children (N =26) with a mean age of nine years and four months (SD =23.7 months). The DD group comprised 11 children with autistic spectrum disorders or communication impairments, three children with Down Syndrome, one with cerebral palsy, one with attentional problems, and four with specific or complex developmental problems. Child behavior was measured by four social interactional scales from the Child Behavior Checklist. Parental attributions were measured using a modified version of the Parent Attribution Test. Mothers were divided into higher and lower controllability groups on the basis of their responses on this test. Multivariate analysis of variance found significant group x adult controllability interaction effects for aggressive behavior, rule-breaking behavior, as well as borderline significant effects for other problems and social problems. Simple effects analysis suggested that when mothers had low attributions of adult controllability, there were indeed significantly more problem behaviors in the DD group, but when mothers had attributions of high adult controllability there was no longer any significant difference in problematic behavior between the two groups. Parent attributions of controllability may moderate the well-established effect of disability on problem behavior. Implications for parent intervention programs are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAbstracts of the 27th International Congress of Applied Psychology
EditorsVicky Mrowinski, Michael Kyrios, Nicholas Voudouris
Place of PublicationMelbourne
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2010
Event27th International Congress of Applied Psychology - Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 11 Jul 201016 Jul 2010


Conference27th International Congress of Applied Psychology
Abbreviated titleICAP2010
OtherThe 27th International Congress of Applied Psychology incorporated the 45th Annual Australian Psychological Society Conference
Internet address


  • child-parent relationships
  • attribution
  • controllability
  • developmental disorders
  • problematic behaviour

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