Method: Participants were 1,308 mothers and fathers who participated in the FFCWS. We conducted latent class analysis (LCA) of the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS-PC) to examine distinct maternal and paternal disciplinary styles toward their 3-year old. Items from the CTS-PC include taking away privileges, time out, swearing or cursing at the child, spanking, threatening to spank, shaking a child, slapping a child. We then conducted regression analysis to determine if disciplinary style congruence/ incongruence predicted child behavior problems at 3-years of age, assessed by the Child Behavior Checklist 1.5 – 5.
Results: LCA analyses confirmed four distinct parenting styles: low discipline (LD), mild aggression (MA), moderate physical aggression (MPA), and high psychological and physical aggression (HPPA). The four categories as described above worked equally well in describing the general parenting styles of parenting for both mothers' and fathers' parenting behaviors, although the percentage of parents in each category differed for mothers and fathers.
A subsequent second order LCA analysis identified four distinctive combined patterns of couples' parenting behavior:
1) MA(mother) - MA(father) (15%)
2) MA/MPA/LD(mother) - LD(father) (21%)
3) HPPA(mother) – HPPA/MPA/LD(father) (16%)
4) MPA/HPPA(mother) - MPA/MA(father) (48%)
When examining parenting style separately, children of mothers or fathers in the LD group presented the lowest level of behavior problems, whereas children of mothers or fathers in HPPA group had the highest level of behavior problems. Analyses of the intersection of mothers' and fathers' parenting behavior pattern confirmed the trends found in the first-order LCA of individual parents: children have relatively fewer behavior problems when both parents using low discipline (LD(mother)-LD(father)) whereas children of parents in the high aggression group (HPPA(mother) – HPPA/MPA/LD(father)) had the highest level of behavior problems.
Conclusions & Implications: By utilizing a risk profile approach we gain greater understanding of heterogeneity in parents' aggressive and non-aggressive disciplinary strategies, and how incongruity in disciplinary style relates to child behavioral problems. Few studies examine maternal and paternal overlap in disciplinary style, and in this study we find that in the majority of cases couples do not have identical parenting profiles. The descriptive nature of LCA allow us to understand how best to target interventions to different types of disciplinary styles; it also illuminates what combinations of disciplinary style present the most risk to children.