Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Speaker series
 
Parental misinterpretation of children as competitors:
A predictor of child abuse
 
Daphne Bugental
Department of Psychology, UCSB
May 29, 1998 at 12:30 - 2:00pm
Anthropology Department, HSSB 2001A
 
 
Abstract
 
Parental misinterpretation of children as competitors: A predictor of child abuse
 
Pathological processes in families can be conceptualized as involving mismatches between appropriate social domains and domains actually engaged. As an example, many physically abusive parents have been found (in Bugental's program of research) to misinterpet the benign behaviors of children as involving social confrontation or competition.

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 processes.
 
 

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.

 

Selected Publications:

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.

 

Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Speaker series