Prospective Parents' Knowledge About Parenting and Their Anticipated Child‐Rearing Decisions

AuthorKatherine Karraker,Darcey N. Powell
Published date01 July 2017
Date01 July 2017
D N. P Roanoke College
K K West Virginia University
Prospective Parents’ Knowledge About Parenting
and Their Anticipated Child-Rearing Decisions
Objective: To examine whether the theory of
planned behavior can be used to understand
intentions for child-rearing practices.
Background: Parenting intentions are formed
before becoming a parent, but it is less clear
what nonparents’ intentions are and how sub-
jective norms, attitudes, and perceived control
predict their intentions.
Method: Nonparent emerging adults (N=353,
Mage =19.6 years, 72% female) wereasked about
their intentions to (a) breastfeed or support a
partner in breastfeeding, (b) circumcise a male
infant, (c) co-sleep, and (4) put their infant
in nonparental daytime care. They were also
asked what proportion of American parents they
thought engaged in each and why they would or
would not engage in each practice.
Results: Most intended to breastfeed and to cir-
cumcise their male infants, but not to co-sleep
or to put their infant in nonparental daytime
care. Participants’ inaccurate knowledge about
actual parents’ behavior (i.e., subjective norms)
and the factors that they thought might affect
their own future behavior (i.e., attitudes toward
and perceived control) were associated with
their intentions for the child-rearing practices.
Conclusion: This study replicated prior research
on breastfeeding intentions and extended the
viability of the theory of planned behavior to
Department of Psychology, Roanoke College, 221 College
Lane, Salem, VA24153 (
Key Words: Caregiving, decision making, emerging adult-
hood, parenting education, parenting infants and toddlers.
understand prospective parents’ intentions for
other child-rearing practices.
Implications: Practitioners should consider dis-
cussing the norms surrounding child-rearing
behaviors during health- and development-
focused courses in secondary or postsecondary
school and with expecting couples.
From a baby’s name to breastfeeding to sleeping
arrangements, parents must make countless
decisions during the early postnatal period.
Before having children, individuals form expec-
tations about the experience of parenting
(Calvert & Stanton, 1992; Coleman, Nelson,
& Sundre, 1999; Pajulo, Helenius, & Mayes,
2006), but research has rarely examined the
specic decisions individuals anticipate making
as parents. The present study was designed
to examine the decisions that emerging adults
think they will make once they become a parent
(i.e., their intentions), as well as how their
perception (i.e., subjective norms) about actual
parents’ decisions regarding child-rearing prac-
tices and their reasoning (i.e., attitude toward
and perceived control) for their intentions are
associated with their intentions. Therefore, we
sampled nonparent emerging adults, who are at
the precipice of becoming parents themselves
and expressed the desire to become a parent in
the future, in order to examine their intentions
with regard to breastfeeding, male circumcision,
co-sleeping, and nonparental daytime childcare.
A variety of parenting decisions could have been
examined, but we chose these four because they
Family Relations 66 (July 2017): 453–467 453

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