Deconstructing children's noncompliance: Mothers' experiences of chidlren exhibiting challenging behaviors and accessing parenting support systems

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Robson, Jane
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University of Guelph

The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of children exhibiting noncompliant behaviors from the perspective of parents who seek clinical services for these challenging behaviors. Theory, empirical research and applied interventions have revolved around the construct of ‘noncompliance' and the assumption that such behavior is the consequence of incompetent or unskillful parental discipline (Kalb & Loeber, 2003; Patterson, 2013). The research questions and analyses of this study were approached with a broader conceptual framing than what has been used previously, sensitized not only by longstanding behavioral conceptions of noncompliance (Patterson's, 1982) but also alternative conceptions from developmental psychology including attachment theory (Stayton, Hogan & Ainsworth, 1971),and social relational theory (Kuczynski & De Mol, 2015). Mothers from twenty-five families were interviewed about their relationship with their children aged 8-13, their interpretations and experiences of their children’s challenging behaviors, and their experiences of accessing parenting support services. Empirically this study makes three contributions. First, this study contributes a more holistic understanding of the parent-child relationship context of challenging child behaviors.This perspective extends beyond a traditional focus on decontextualized interactions where parents respond to noncompliant or coercive behaviors to a focus on the larger relationship context in which such interactions occur. Second, this study provides insight into the phenomenon of noncompliance as it appears in a clinical sample of children whose behaviors were maladaptive and difficult to manage by their mothers. These analyses provided evidence for two qualitatively different contexts of children's challenging behaviors –ordinary resistance and extreme aggression. Third, this study provides insight into experiences with practitioners that mothers perceive as helpful and not helpful when accessing parenting services for their children's challenging behaviors. Clinical implications are also discussed.

noncompliance, clinical, parenting, middle childhood, strengths based