Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A. DiThomaso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Robert, A. DiThomaso, PhD, ABPP, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Susan Panichello-Mindel, PhD

Third Advisor

Pam S Haugh, PhD


While there are a number of factors that may contribute to maladaptive parenting behaviors, parental stress has consistently been related to the increased risk of child maltreatment and, ultimately, the development of childhood. The question then is what drives parental stress and what are those key factors? Based on previous research, there are multiple parental, child, and environmental factors that lead to parental stress, but there is not a clear understanding of what initially drives parental stress. Based on cognitive behavioral models of stress and Abidin’s theory of parental stress, it is theorized that parental cognitions play an important role in the development of parental stress. Theoretically, distorted thinking influences the development of parental stress, which in turn increases the likelihood that the parent or caregiver will engage in maladaptive parenting behaviors. Increased maladaptive parenting behaviors then lead to child psychopathology. The main purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between cognitive distortions, parental stress, and perceived levels of child psychopathology and to have a better understanding of the initial pathway of parental stress. Specifically, the purpose was to determine if parental stress mediates the relationship between cognitive distortions and child psychopathology. The results of this study indicate that parental stress mediates the relationship between parental distorted thinking and child psychopathology, therefore providing empirical support for cognitive behavioral models of parental stress and parenting behaviors. The second goal of the study was to further test the hypothesis that specific parenting factors, such as depressive symptoms and perception of competency in parenting abilities, are associated with distorted thinking. Results indicate that distorted thinking is strongly associated with depressive symptoms and levels of perceived competency, which is consistent with previous research in both parent and nonparent populations.