In this chapter we examine parents’ social cognitions-beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, attributions, and expectations-from two perspectives. In the first section, we ask questions about the origins of parents’ social cognitions. What influences the development of parents’ social cognitions? How do they develop over time? We look at parental social cognition as a focus of study and consider the ways in which it emerges as a function of parents’ social context. As others have argued (e.g., Goodnow & Collins, 1990; Sigel & McGillicuddy-De Lisi, 2002), the study of parents’ social cognitions is important in and of itself. They constitute an important aspect of adult cognitive development. In the first edition of this book, Okagaki and Divecha (1993) reviewed research describing contextual factors thought to influence the development of parents’ social cognitions following Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological approach to the study of human development. For this edition, we limit our discussion to macrosystemic influences on parents’ social cognitions and consider the ways in which broad contextual factors may shape beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, attributions, and expectations relevant to childrearing and parent-child relationships. In the second section of this chapter, we review research on the relation between parents’ social cognitions and their childrearing behaviors. Many have argued that parents’ social cognitions influence their behaviors and, in turn, children’s developmental outcomes (e.g., Goodnow, 2002; Holden & Buck, 2002). We
consider the evidence that supports these claims. In the final section, we conclude with our perspectives on developments in research on parental social cognition that have the potential to move the field forward.