Discrepancies in Mother-Adolescent Reports of Parenting Practices in a Psychiatric Sample: Associations with Age, Psychopathology, and Attachment

  • Francesca Penner
  • Salome Vanwoerden
  • Jessica L. Borelli
  • Carla SharpEmail author


Discrepancies in parent-adolescent reports of parenting practices may reveal important information about parent-adolescent relationship quality. Youth attachment security has been identified as a factor that may explain discrepancies between parents and adolescents in reporting on parenting. However, previous research has not examined this question among clinical samples, and has generally utilized non-optimal analytic strategies in modeling discrepancies. The current study aimed to extend previous work by using latent profile analysis (LPA) to identify patterns of mother-adolescent divergence in reports of parenting in a large clinical sample, examining the characteristics of discrepancy groups in terms of age, gender, and psychopathology, and examining associations between attachment and discrepancies. A sample of adolescents with psychiatric disorders (N = 416; ages 12–17) and their mothers completed reports of parenting practices. Adolescents also completed the Child Attachment Interview and a measure of psychopathology. LPA was used to identify groups of mother-adolescent dyads with similar patterns of divergence across domains of parenting. Chi-square, ANOVA, and logistic regression analyses were used to test associations between youth age, gender, psychopathology, and attachment and mother-adolescent discrepancy profile membership. Three discrepancy profiles emerged: Strong Divergence, Moderate Divergence, and Low Divergence. Youth in the Moderate Divergence profile were oldest and had highest levels of externalizing pathology. Youth with insecure (dismissing and preoccupied) attachment, relative to securely attached youth, were more likely to be in the Strong Divergence profile. Securely attached adolescents were more likely to be in Low or Moderate Divergence profiles. Clinical implications are discussed.


Assessment Attachment Parenting Parent-child relationships Adolescents Informant discrepancies 



We thank the adolescents and parents for their participation in this study and the Menninger ATP research team for their work with data collection and coding.

Funding Information

This study was funded by the McNair Family Foundation (no grant number), grant awarded to Dr. Carla Sharp.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest..

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committees (University of Houston, Protocol Number 14238-02; Baylor College of Medicine, Protocol Number H-23579) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Penner
    • 1
  • Salome Vanwoerden
    • 1
  • Jessica L. Borelli
    • 2
  • Carla Sharp
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological ScienceUniversity of California – IrvineIrvineUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Development SupportUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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