US tab

The Role of Parenting and Attachment in
Identity Style Development

By: Kaylin Ratner | Mentor: Dr. Steven Berman

Discussion

While significant relationships among parenting style, attachment, and identity style were found, the findings of this study suggest that attachment does not mediate the relationship between parenting and identity style, as hypothesized. That is, parenting style seems to be directly related to identity style rather than acting through parental attachment. This could be due to a number of reasons; however, the most likely cause is due to multicollinearity of the attachment and responsiveness variables. During preliminary analysis, an extremely high correlation coefficient (r > .80, see Table 1) was observed between maternal responsiveness and attachment, as well as between paternal responsiveness and attachment.

Furthermore, Chen, Ender, Mitchell, and Wells (2003) propose that variables with high condition indexes (above 30) and low eigenvalues, both of which were seen in the case of our data, point to significant multicollinearity as well. This suggests that although the measures claim to be measuring different constructs, the IPPA's attachment and the API's responsiveness scale do not act with any statistical difference. Research on parental responsiveness and attachment should take such results into consideration when designing future studies. Although these scales can independently produce the appropriate variables, when utilized together in the same study, the overlap is too great to distinguish between the two. Despite the second set of hypotheses being supported by these results, responsiveness could predict attachment simply because the two constructs are one and the same. Future research should undertake construct validity studies using both the API and the IPPA to tease out the true relationship between these two variables.

Nonetheless, significant relationships between parenting style, attachment, and identity style exist. Most surprisingly out of line with this study's hypotheses is the lack of significance between the paternal role and identity. The normative and informational identity styles were shown to only be dependent upon maternal parenting style, and only the normative identity style was shown to be significantly predicted by maternal attachment/responsiveness. Such results could be attributed to the fact that mothers have traditionally been more catering to the emotional components of child rearing than fathers (Goldberg & Easterbrooks, 1984). Furthermore, research on parenting has shown that mothers tend to act like the gatekeepers—determining the role of the father 26in the child's life and dictating how much interaction he has with his child (De Luccie, 1994). Because of these relationships, future research may want to focus on clarifying what variables keep fathers from sharing significant relationships with identity style.

Limitations and Areas for Future Research

Survey Length

A consistent piece of feedback received from the students indicated they tended to lose focus towards the end of the questionnaire. It was through the various addendums made to the measures (i.e., duplicating the IPPA [Armsden & Greenberg, 1987] and API [Jackson et al., 1998] to measure maternal and paternal parental characteristics separately) and adding additional measures for future analyses that the length of the questionnaire greatly increased. Future research may aggregate the parenting data to overcome the problem of survey length, but by doing so, differences between maternal and paternal styles would no longer be observed. Parenting constellations have been linked to many outcomes, such as higher levels of adaptive emotional adjustment in adolescents with at least one authoritative parent (McKinney & Renk, 2008) and lower levels of self-esteem in individuals who have at least one neglectful parent (Milevsky, Schlechter, Klem, & Kehl, 2008). Variables such as these that affect well-being have been linked with identity style and overall development (Vleioras & Bosma, 2005), so observing parenting style concordance is still important.

Perspective

In the case of our study, as is the case in much of the previous research conducted on this subject, only data from children were obtained. This presents a significant problem because the data relies on perceived parental responsiveness and demandingness rather than on actual degrees of responsiveness and demandingness. The data may become contaminated due to the biases (whether they be positive or negative) through which these adolescents view their parents' behavior. In future research, a combination of reports (e.g., self-report, parent report, clinical interview, and/or observation) should be used to get a clearer picture of the kind of parenting occurring in the household.

Correlation and Causation

The analyses conducted in the present study were correlational, which does not imply causation. Longitudinal studies on the effects of parenting on identity style may be helpful in this regard. Correlationally-based studies such as the one described here may be used to form hypotheses in future research because it has been demonstrated that parenting characteristics such as warmth and support are related to the identity styles, as well as other aspects of identity development.

Appendix >>