Maternal reactions to problem behaviors and ordinal position of child.
Mothers' reactions to problem behavior patterns were contrasted in a sample of mothers of first-born and later-born boys. Mothers of 8- and 14-year-old boys were presented with six hypothetical cases. Mothers of first-born boys described themselves as more likely to seek outside professional help for problems than did mothers of later-born boys. Similar results held true for those stories that mothers reported as descriptive of their own sons in recent weeks. Interestingly, no difference in the reported prevalence of such problems was found between the two birth order groups. These findings hold true for moderate severity problems, but not for severe problems. Mothers of first-born boys were more inclined to attribute the cause of problems to parent factors, while mothers of later-borns tended to focus more on the sons' skill deficits. The findings are interpreted in terms of the differential parenting experiences of the two groups and suggest an explanation for the greater incidence of clinic referral among first-borns compared to later-borns.
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