Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A. DiTomasso, Ph.D., ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Virginia Salzer, Ph.D., Chairperson

Second Advisor

Susan Pinichelli Mindel, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Daniel Weldon, Ph.D.


Building social competence is an important task of childhood. Effective social problem solving is a vital skill in the development of social competence. Although there are myriad factors that influence a child’s learning of social problem solving skills, the quality of the interaction between parents and children has been found to be a pivotal influence. Although much research focuses on the effects of parenting in the context of a traditional family (two parents of opposite gender), little more than half of all children are living in this type of family. Same-sex parent households draw particular criticism. However, research suggests that children living in non-traditional families benefit from the fluidity of family relationships and the cumulative effects of nurturing relationships with various adults. The quality of the relationship between the parental figure and the child has more impact than the family structure. This study sought to explore how parents and children from traditional families compare with parents and children from same-sex parent (female couples only) families with respect to a) the children’s problem solving outcomes, b) the parenting qualities that might predict prosocial problem solving, c) the different parenting qualities in each family group that may lead to prosocial outcomes, d) the differences between fathers and mothers when interacting with their children, and e) the differences between mothers from both family types when interacting with their children. Although no clear predictors of positive responses were found, there was evidence to support the influence of the quality of the parent-child interaction. The findings suggest that children are more likely to choose positive social behaviors when parents are responsive to children and are supportive of the child’s autonomy.