What Does the Dyad Add? An Examination of Maternal Responsiveness and Dyadic Dyssynchrony in High-Risk Families

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Patallo, Brandon Joshua
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
September 08, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Sandra T Azar, Thesis Advisor
  • Child Maltreatment
  • Dyadic Dyssynchrony
  • Maternal Responsiveness
  • Dyad
Recent research has acknowledged that parenting process disruptions may explain similar outcomes across many distinct disorders. Low maternal responsiveness in particular has been identified as a factor present across many disorders that involved maladaptive parenting such as child maltreatment. Although maternal responsiveness has proven to be a potent predictor, it may only give insight into part of the family. Little research has examined the utility of maternal responsiveness in predicting maltreatment in comparison to bidirectional dyad-based measures of conflict, disengagement, and intrusiveness. Such a question is important to considering whether child maltreatment is best conceptualized as a parental pathology or the extreme of familial dysfunction. An examination of dyssynchrony between mothers and children in at-risk populations during difficult, but normative parenting tasks was conducted to further inform our understanding of family interactions in high-stress situations. The present study examined the possible unique association between dyadic dyssynchrony and maltreatment history. This study replicated previous findings associating higher parental burden with decreased parent-child interaction quality as measured by maternal responsiveness and dyadic dyssynchrony. The dyads with mother perpetrated maltreatment did in fact demonstrate lower responsiveness and higher dyadic dyssynchrony, but there was not any evidence of an interaction effect contrary to predictions. Finally, it was found that dyadic dyssynchrony was associated with maltreatment status even after accounting for the contributions of maternal responsiveness. This study provides preliminary support for the utilization of dyadic dyssynchrony in observational studies as a more proximal measure of parenting and family risk.