Both field observations and laboratory research have revealed that power-oriented parents show distinctive response patterns that are consistent with their power perceptions but are inconsistent with the demands of caregiving. For example, they easily interpret ambiguous or novel child behavior as posing a social threat. In addition, they respond with hormonal and autonomic responses consistent with mobilizing to cope with threat (i.e., responses that are adaptive in coping with a physically powerful competitor but maladaptive in coping with a dependent child).
Just as child abuse can be conceptualized as involving a domain mismatch,
abuse prevention efforts can make effective use of domain recalibration
Daphne Bugental is professor in UCSB's Dept. of Psychology, organizer of UCSB's Interdisciplinary Human Development program and the Psychology Department's Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology wing, and is one of the nation's leading researchers into socioemotional development.
Bugental, Daphne Blunt; Lyon, Judith E.; Krantz, Jennifer; Cortez, Victoria. Who's the boss? Differential accessibility of dominance ideation in parent-child relationships. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 1997 Jun, v72 (n6):1297-1309.
Bugental, Daphne Blunt; Brown, Michelle; Reiss, Corrina. Cognitive representations of power in caregiving relationships: Biasing effects on interpersonal interaction and information processing. Journal of Family Psychology, 1996 Dec, v10 (n4):397-407.
Bugental, Daphne B. Communication in abusive relationships: Cognitive constructions of interpersonal power. American Behavioral Scientist, 1993 Jan-Feb, v36 (n3):288-308.