Positive illusions: An examination of the unrealistically positive views parents hold of their children and of the parenting experience

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Blaine J. Fowers, Committee Chair


Of primary importance in this study was the opportunity to better understand the paradox between the difficulties of parenting and the overwhelmingly high levels of parenting satisfaction being reported. This study sought to investigate this paradox by examining the role of positive illusions in parenting. The study examined the manner in which parents perceive their young children and the parenting experience. This study also explored the relationship between positive self-perceptions and parents' perceptions of their child. In addition, the study examined the relationship between parents' unrealistically positive perceptions of their children and parenting satisfaction.Data were collected from a sample of 78 parents who had a child between the ages of two and five. Parents were recruited voluntarily for this study while visiting their pediatrician's office. All 78 participants completed a demographic form, the Cleminshaw-Guidubaldi Parenting Satisfaction Scale, the Illusions of Parenting Scale, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, adjective ratings of self, child, and the average child selected from Anderson's Personality Trait List, and the Self-Deception Scale.Parents were found to hold unrealistically positive views of their children. They overwhelmingly rated their own child as possessing more positive and less negative attributes than the average child. The degree to which parents rated themselves in a positive manner was also positively correlated with their positive ratings of their child. This study also found that parents' self-esteem ratings, positive child ratings, and positive illusions of parenting were related to parenting satisfaction.This study therefore extends the existing research beyond positive illusions in self-perception and perception of one's marital relationship to encompass parents' perceptions of their young children. This study found support for the relationship between the maintenance of these illusory beliefs and parenting satisfactions. Thus, consistent with Taylor and Brown's (1989) theory that positive illusions promote well-being, the extent to which parents in this study maintained positive illusions was related to their reported level of parenting satisfaction.


Sociology, Individual and Family Studies; Psychology, Cognitive

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