Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Marc S. Karver, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vicky Phares, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eric A. Storch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Judith B. Bryant, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John M. Ferron, Ph.D.


Parental causal attributions; child psychopathology; Parental psychopathology; Problem identification; help-seeking


A significant number of youth experience mental health disorders for which they suffer negative consequences. Although there are evidence-based therapies available to help children and their families, most youth do not receive treatment. Parental problem recognition is likely a primary barrier in this process. This study begins to address why parents may have difficulty recognizing mental health problems by extending existing models and integrating evidence about parental perceptions. Specifically, the study aimed to investigate the relationship between parental attributions and parents’ problem determination, and to examine the influence that parental characteristics have on this judgment process. Participants included 164 parents of youth ages 6-11 years. Purposive sampling was used to recruit mothers and fathers from both lower and higher SES communities. Parents completed self-report measures of parental characteristics, including: parental psychopathology, parenting stress, parental tolerance, and parental self-efficacy. Parents read ten brief child behavior vignettes and completed a version of the Written Analogue Questionnaire to rate the cause of each behavior (assuming it was their own child in the vignette) along four dimensions. Parents also rated the extent to which the behavior was seen as a problem. Results indicated that parents’ causal attributions were highly associated with parents’ problem ratings, and the attributions of stability and controllability were particularly robust predictors of problem determination. Hypotheses regarding parental characteristics as moderators of the relationship between attributions and problem determination were not supported. Findings are discussed in light of clinical and public health implications; results suggest that recognizing the influence of parental beliefs and attributions may help to increase the efficacy of outreach efforts for early intervention and help seeking for parental concerns.