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Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



preschoolers, behavior problems, discipline, single parenthood, parent depression, ethnic differences


Behavior problems are common during early childhood, and while many children will outgrow them, others will continue to have substantial difficulties. Unfortunately, too little is known about which children will exhibit continued difficulties, making it difficult to intervene before maladaptive behavior becomes entrenched. A number of parenting and parent characteristics, including ineffective discipline, maternal depression, parenting stress, and limited social support have consistently been found to be associated with externalizing problems in young children. While these variables are concurrently related to behavior problems, we know very little about whether or not they predict change in externalizing behaviors over time. The proposed research examined several parenting and parent predictors of changes in child behavior problems, including lax and overreactive discipline, single parent status, and parental depression. In addition, this study evaluated whether child gender and ethnicity moderated the relationships between these variables and changes in problem behavior. Single parenthood was the only significant predictor for the sample as a whole, while parent depression was a significant predictor for girls. Several significant ethnic differences emerged, highlighting the importance of considering cultural context in studies of parenting and externalizing behavior.


First Advisor

David H. Arnold