Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Parental cognitive antecedents of child prosocial behaviors

Rebecca K Holton, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Research has consistently confirmed that a parent’s capacity for reflective functioning and a secure attachment relationship increases their child’s prosocial behaviors. What is not known are the antecedents of these parental behaviors. Consequently, the intention of this study was to investigate specific parental cognitive processes that contribute to parent behaviors which foster positive outcomes in their child. Specifically, this study examined the influence of parents’ level of moral development, attachment security, “reflective function (RF),” and socialization goals on their child’s prosocial behavior. It was hypothesized that parents with more advanced levels of moral reasoning would be more likely to endorse specific parenting goals to socialize their children to act morally and that would influence their children’s level of moral development, operationalized as prosocial behaviors. It was also hypothesized that parents who demonstrated higher levels of moral reasoning will also demonstrate higher levels of reflective functioning and attachment security. Additionally it was hypothesized that parents who demonstrate higher levels of moral reasoning, RF, attachment security, and prosocial goals would demonstrate higher levels of responsivity and positive parenting and lower levels of negativity and negative parenting. ^ Results indicated that: (a) parents with higher levels of moral reasoning demonstrated higher levels of reflective functioning and higher levels of attachment security; (b) parental moral reasoning was associated with lower levels of prosocial goals, although higher levels of parental moral reasoning were significantly and inversely correlated with status related goals; (c) prosocial and status goals were not significantly correlated with RF or attachment security; (d) parents’ moral reasoning was not significantly associated with children’s social competence or perceptions of positive or negative parenting; (e) there were mixed results pertaining to the associations between parents’ socialization goals and children’s prosocial behavior; and (f) parents who rated prosocial goals as higher in importance reported higher levels of positive parenting. However RF, coherence of mind, and parent moral reasoning were not significantly correlated with higher levels of responsivity or positive parenting. ^

Subject Area

Education, Early Childhood|Psychology, Developmental|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Holton, Rebecca K, "Parental cognitive antecedents of child prosocial behaviors" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3366265.