Optimal Assessment of Parenting, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Reporter Disagreement

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The purpose of this study was to examine differences and similarities across ratings of parenting by preadolescents, parents, and observers. Two hundred forty-one preadolescents rated their parents on warmth and harshness. Both mothers and fathers self-reported on these same dimensions, and observers rated each parents’ warmth and harshness during a 10 min interaction task with the preadolescent. For the majority of outcomes assessed, the differences between preadolescent, parent, and observer ratings accounted for significant amounts of variance, beyond the levels accounted for by the average of their reports. A replication sample of 929 mother-child dyads provided a similar pattern of results. This methodology can help standardize the study of reporter differences, supports modeling of rater-specific variance as true score, and illustrates the benefits of collecting parenting data from multiple reporters.