Parents' Use of Praise and Criticism in a Sample of Young Children Seeking Mental Health Services

Stephanie Swenson, Grace W.K. Ho, Chakra Budhathoki, Harolyn M.E. Belcher, Sharon Tucker, Kellie Miller, Deborah Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Parents' use of praise and criticism are common indicators of parent-child interaction quality and are intervention targets for mental health treatment. Clinicians and researchers often rely on parents' self-reports of parenting behavior, although studies about the correlation of parents' self-reports and actual behavior are rare. We examined the concordance between parents' self-reports of praise and criticism of their children and observed use of these behaviors during a brief parent-child play session. Parent self-report and observational data were collected from 128 parent-child dyads referred for child mental health treatment. Most parents reported praising their children often and criticizing their children rarely. However, parents were observed to criticize their children nearly three times more often than they praised them. Self-reported and observed praise were positively correlated (rs = 0.32, p < .01), whereas self-reported and observed criticisms were negatively correlated (rs = -0.21, p < .05). Parents' tendencies to overestimate their use of praise and underestimate their use of criticism are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pediatric Health Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Critical statements
  • Parent self-report
  • Parenting
  • Praise
  • Young children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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