The Beliefs About PVA Harm Survey: Testing the factor structure, validity, and relationship to use of parental verbal aggression and stress
Type of DegreeDissertation
Human Development and Family Studies
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Recent prevalence data indicate that parental verbal aggression (PVA) (e.g., yelling/screaming, threatening to hit, swearing, insulting, and threatening to send away) is used by a majority of parents at one time or another while their children are under the age of 18. This widespread use suggests that PVA is an acceptable parental behavior; however, acceptable parental behaviors can still cause harm to children. PVA is often overlooked by researchers unless it co-occurs with other forms of parental aggression, particularly ones that have reached abusive levels. Consequently, there is limited knowledge to provide an understanding of what contributes to the use of PVA. Beliefs about parental aggression have been linked to parents’ use of parental physical aggression (PPA); however, no studies have examined the belief-behavior link for PVA. The purpose of this study was (1) to validate ‘beliefs about PVA harm’ as a distinct construct, and (2) to refine the factor structure and evaluate the reliability and validity of the Beliefs about PVA Harm Survey (BPHS) an instrument developed to assess parents’ beliefs about the extent to which PVA causes harm to children. The BPHS was designed to elicit research knowledge about parents’ cognitions about use of PVA and to enhance programmatic work with parents. Utilizing a sample of 373 parents, this study involved evaluations of the measurement and validation of beliefs about PVA harm. The refined instrument consists of an 8-item Beliefs about Ordinary PVA Scale and a 20-item Beliefs about Severe PVA Scale. Tests of external validity provided support for both the construct validity and the concurrent validity of the two scales through an examination of the pattern of relationships with theoretically and empirically relevant variables (e.g., use of PVA, use of PPA, general aggression, parental stress, social desirability). Evidence supports ‘beliefs about PVA harm’ as a distinct construct, and both beliefs about ordinary PVA and beliefs about severe PVA uniquely contribute to the explanation of the variance in use of PVA. Results indicate parent gender differences in the relationships between beliefs, parental stress, and use of PVA. This study of the BPHS represents the first effort to empirically validate a measure of parents’ beliefs about PVA harm. The BPHS can facilitate future investigations of this construct with regard to the belief-behavior link for PVA, as well as the causes and consequences of beliefs about PVA harm. Practical applications include raising awareness among parents of their beliefs, as well as providing a tool for parenting educators to use to assess parents’ beliefs about verbal aggression.