Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Educational Specialist (EdS)




Clinton E. Field


Based on classic marital research of John Gottman, a popular notion exists that interpersonal relationships thrive when the number of positive interactions outweighs negative interactions by a ratio of five to one. Though many have given similar advice for parents and caregivers, Gottman's findings and methodology may not generalize to relationships of parents and young children. Were similar ratio findings to be validated for parent-child relationships, explicit ratio advice may be incorporated as a component of clinical practice (e.g., behavioral parent training). To begin investigating potential clinical implications, a project was conducted that examined mothers' ability to achieve prescribed ratios following brief instruction. Baseline ratio levels for a small sample of nonclinical mother-child dyads were approximately one positive for every one negative. When instructed to attain a 5 to 1 ratio, all participants improved their ratios; half the sample achieved the target ratio. Mothers in the study altered their ratios primarily by boosting the number of positives they used with their children.