Date of Award

Winter 2003

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Carolyn Mebert


Early experiences tend to influence internalizing and externalizing behavior. Children experiencing harsh, noncontingent discipline often understand relationships as unpredictable and filled with conflict. They take this understanding into interactions with other children, behave aggressively, and are rejected by peers, reaffirming their hostile view and increasing the likelihood of aggression.

Social rejection has also been found to be associated with internalizing behavior, with rejected boys being higher internalizers than rejected girls. Because boys' relationships are more of group form and girls more of dyadic form, whether reciprocated friendships moderate group rejection was examined.

Aggressive and depressive children tend to attribute hostile intent in negative situations, with depressives feeling assertive behavior would result in negative outcomes, and aggressives feeling the opposite. Therefore, locus of control was examined. Because children with hostile attributional bias have emotional difficulty, emotional intelligence was also examined.

Although harsh, noncontingent discipline has been associated with aggression, examined here was whether corporal punishment in the absence of more severe punishment increases aggression. Emotional intelligence of children experiencing harsh discipline was also examined, as was whether emotional intelligence mediates the effect of parenting on problem behavior.

Sixth-grade students (N = 252) in New Hampshire were tested. Peer rejection, but not friendship, was associated with internalizing. Friended females scored lower in externalizing than nonfriended females and friended males. Children with internal locus of control were less aggressive and depressed.

Emotional intelligence was negatively associated with hostile attributional bias, and uniquely predictived externalizing, but not internalizing scores. Parental warmth was not predictive of emotional intelligence over and above parental control. Although no difference in emotional intelligence was found between authoritative and authoritarian parenting, differences were found between both and neglectful parenting. Children experiencing less parental control had external locus of control and higher internalizing scores. External locus of control was associated with internalizing scores.

Corporal punishment uniquely predicted externalizing scores but harsh discipline was not associated with emotional intelligence.

Structural equation modeling indicated that emotional intelligence mediated the effect of parenting quality on problem behavior. Reciprocated friendships did not moderate the effect of peer rejection on problem behavior.