Background: Most maltreatment, by definition, is a failure of parenting. However, even without maltreatment, poor parenting can lead to a variety of negative outcomes including social, emotional and behavioral problems. Given that parenting plays a key role in child outcomes, one of the foci of interventions are parenting programs. Interventions for parents must be evaluated using standardized assessment tools, which leads to an important question; how can we best assess parenting? Observational methods (observing a parent and child interact) are often regarded as the gold standard in the assessment of parental behaviors but are cumbersome to administer. Self-reports of parenting behaviors are the most commonly used measure due to ease of administration, but their validity may be questioned. The goal of this study is to examine the relationship between three observational measures of parenting and two self-report measures.

Methods: Participants (n=133) were either parents who were receiving treatment at Metro-Atlanta drug courts or other caregivers. All participants completed self-report measures of parenting, and videotaped interaction task with a child. Videos were coded for a variety of behaviors, and two of those behaviors (affection and involvement) matched constructs that parents reported on in a self-report battery.

Results: Correlations between self- report and observational measures for the constructs affection and involvement for the whole sample ranged from r = -.03 to.06 for affection, and r = -.05 to .08 for involvement, but none were statistically significant. The relationship between self-report and observed parenting by adult type and child age was also examined. However, none of the correlations were statistically significant.

Conclusions: Although there were no significant correlations found between self-report and observational measures, existing research suggests that self-reports are not interchangeable with observational methods. In future studies, constructs used to compare self-reports and observational methods should examine how each relates to the outcomes. Furthermore, CAIC (observational tool) should also be examined in further detail.

Keywords: Observation methods, self-report methods, parenting, behaviors: warmth and involvement, coerced population, non-coerced population, child age

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