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Glossary of Significant Concepts in Interpersonal Acceptance-Rejection Theory (IPARTheory) | Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance & Rejection


Ronald P. Rohner
Revised April, 2018
Note: All entries in this glossary are implicitly prefaced by the phrase, “In IPARTheory, the defined concept refers to . . .” Some of the concepts may be defined differently in other theoretical paradigms. See the References at the end of the Glossary to discover how each concept fits into IPARTheory. Concepts written in bold type within a definition are centrally important to that concept, and are defined elsewhere in the Glossary.
Acceptance—The warmth, affection, care, comfort, concern, nurturance, support, or simply love that parents and others can feel and express toward their children, attachment figures, and others. Acceptance has two principle behavioral expressions: physical and verbal. Physical expressions of acceptance include hugging, fondling, caressing, approving glances, kissing, smiling, and other such indications of endearment, approval, or support. Expressions of verbal acceptance include praising, complimenting, saying nice things to or about the child or other person, perhaps singing songs or telling stories to a young child, and the like. Acceptance is also characterized by the absence or minimal presence of rejection.(See the warmth dimension of parenting)
Acceptance-rejection syndrome—A relational diagnosis composed of two complementary sets of factors. First, four classes of behaviors appear universally to convey the symbolic message that “my parent. . .” (or other attachment figure) “. . .loves me” (or does not love me—i.e., rejects me). These classes of behavior include perceived warmth/affection (or its opposite, coldness/lack of affection), hostility/aggression, indifference/neglect, and undifferentiated rejection. Second, the psychological adjustment of children and adults (defined by the constellation of seven specific personality dispositions described in personality subtheory) tends universally to vary directly with the extent to which individuals perceive themselves to be accepted or rejected in their relationship with individuals most important to them. (See syndrome)
Affection—Observable behaviors that result when individuals act on their feelings of warmth or love. Affection can be shown either physically (hugging, kissing, caressing, comforting, and the like), verbally (praising, complimenting, saying nice things to or about the child or others, and so forth), or in other symbolic forms. These and many other caring, nurturing, supportive, and loving behaviors help define the behavioral expressions of acceptance.
Aggression—Any behavior where there is the intention of hurting someone, something, or oneself. It is differentiated into physical, verbal, and symbolic forms. Physical aggression includes hitting, biting, pushing, shaking, pinching, scratching, burning, tying up, and the like. Verbal aggression, on the other hand, includes sarcasm, belittling, cursing, scapegoating, denigrating, and saying other thoughtless, unkind, cruel things to or about the person. Symbolic aggression includes the use of angry or rude hand gestures or facial expressions. Aggression is to be distinguished from assertiveness. (See hostility; personality theory; problems with the management of hostility and aggression; the warmth dimension of parenting)
Anthroponomy—The science of human behavior that searches for worldwide principles (i.e., universals) of human behavior–that is, principles of behavior and of human development that can be shown empirically to hold true for people everywhere regardless of differences in culture, race, language, ethnicity, gender, and other such defining conditions. IPARTheory and research illustrate the anthroponomical endeavor. (See universalist approach; phylogenetic perspective; phylogenetic model)
Anxiety—Diffuse, often unfocused fear frequently evoked by the disruption or threatened disruption of an individual’s relationship with an attachment figure (e.g. with a parent for the child or an intimate partner for an adult). (See personality subtheory; psychological adjustment)
Assertiveness—Individuals’ attempts to place themselves in physical, verbal, or social equality with, or superiority over another person. When one does this with the intent of hurting someone else, then the act becomes one of aggression. But generally, assertiveness is to be distinguished from aggression.
Attachment figure – Any person with whom a child or adult has a relatively long-lasting emotional bond, who is uniquely important to an individual, and who is interchangeable with no one else. That is, an attachment figure is a significant other. But an attachment figure has at least one additional criterion not included in the definition of significant other. Specifically to be an attachment figure, as defined in IPARTheory, one’s sense of emotional security, happiness, and well-being must be dependent to some degree on the quality of the relationship with the other person. As with all affectional bonds – such as those felt for significant others and attachment figures – individuals are likely to feel the need to establish at least periodic physical closeness or proximity to their partner, experience “distress upon inexplicable separation, pleasure or joy upon reunion, and grief at loss…” (Ainsworth, 1989, p. 711). Assessment of the extent to which an individual is a significant other or an attachment figure may be made by responding to the Intimate Partner Attachment Questionnaire (IPAQ), the Intimate Adult Relationship Questionnaire (IARQ), or the Intimate Partner Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire (IPAR/CQ). An attachment figure in these measures is defined by an affirmative response to the question “Is your overall sense of emotional security, comfort, and well-being affected by your feelings about your relationship with your partner?”
Behavior observations (BOs)—One of the procedures along with the interview (PARIS), and self-report questionnaires (e.g., PARQ), available to assess parents’ accepting and rejecting behaviors–or individuals’ perceptions of these behaviors.
Biological state—Refers in the phylogenetic perspective and the phylogenetic model, to the complete range of genetic dispositions (see genotype) found in populations throughout the human species. It also includes biological structure and processes of the living body, for example the nervous system, the endocrine system, and our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. From a developmental point of view, biological state is more or less synonymous with maturation or organismic growth. Overall, then, “biological state” is humankind’s complete biological—including genetic—endowment.
Cognition—Mental activity including the capacity to know, comprehend, understand, reason, and remember. (See mental representation; phylogenetic model)
Coldness—On the warmth/affection scale of the warmth dimension of parenting, coldness refers to the lack or absence (or perceived absence) of emotional warmth. (See rejection)
Community study approach—Refers in the anthroponomical research design of IPARTheory to long-term ethnographic research within a given community in order to place styles of parenting and other relevant behaviors within their full sociocultural context. (See convergence of methodologies and procedures; anthroponomy; multimethod research strategy; universalist approach)
Control dimension of parenting—A continuum of parenting defined at one pole by permissiveness and at the other by restrictive control. Intermediate between these poles are moderate control and firm control, which are sometimes combined to form flexible control. Conceptually, behavioral control has two components: (1) the extent to which parents place limits or restrictions on their children’s behavior (i.e., the extent to which parents use directives requiring compliance, make demands, and establish family or household rules). Behavioral control also pertains to (2) the extent to which parents insist on compliance with these proscriptions and prescriptions. The concept of behavioral control does not refer to the methods or techniques parents use to enforce compliance with their proscriptions and prescriptions. This latter issue deals with styles of parental discipline (e.g., physical punishment). In IPARTheory research, behavioral control is measured most often by the Parental Control Scale (PCS) or by scores on the control scale of the PARQ/Control.
Convergence of methodologies and procedures—The areas of overlap or convergence of results across two or more discrete methodologies or procedures, as displayed in the Figures below. (See anthroponomy; multimethod research strategy; universalist approach)

Copers, affective—Those people whose emotional and overall psychological adjustment is reasonably good despite having been rejected as children. Affective copers are able to escape many but not all of the pernicious psychological effects of rejection as specified in IPARTheory’s personality subtheory and in the acceptance-rejection syndrome. (See copers, instrumental)
Copers, instrumental—Rejected persons who do well in their professions, occupations, and other task-oriented activities, but whose emotional and overall psychological adjustment is impaired as defined in IPARTheory’s personality subtheory and in the acceptance-rejection syndrome. These individuals maintain high levels of task competence and occupational performance despite living with the expectable psychological consequences of parental rejection. (See copers, affective)
Coping subtheory—One of the three subtheories of IPARTheory. It addresses the question: What gives some children and adults the resilience to cope more effectively than most with the experiences of perceived rejection?

Counter rejection—The situation where rejected individuals (e.g., adolescents) reject the other person in turn (e.g., the rejecting parent). Counter rejection appears to occur most often in the context of defensive independence. (See personality subtheory)
Culture—Learned symbolic meanings approximately shared by most members of a society or by identifiable segments of the society (e.g., status groups), and generally transmitted from one generation to the next. (Note: this definition and concepts within it are amplified in Rohner, 1984.) The important point here is that the concept “culture” in IPARTheory refers exclusively to some degree of consensus about symbolic meanings among members of a population. The concept does not include behavior except insofar as behavior is motivated by or expresses symbolic meanings. (See culture learning; enculturation; equivalence of meaning; mental representation)
Culture learning—The process through which one becomes a responsible adult member of a given society, as defined by the norms of that society. (See anthroponomy; culture; enculturation; the universalist approach)
Defensive independence—The commonplace tendency for seriously rejected persons to make fewer and fewer bids over time for positive response (see dependence) because of their growing anger and increasing emotional unresponsiveness. Many defensively independent persons say, in effect, “To hell with you! I don’t need you. I don’t need anybody!” Defensive independence is one way many rejected persons attempt to defend themselves against further hurt of rejection in situations over which they feel they have little control. Defensive independence is like healthy independence in that individuals make relatively few behavioral bids for positive response. But it is unlike healthy independence in that defensively independent people continue to emotionally crave positive response, though they sometimes do not recognize it. Indeed, because of the overlay of anger, distrust, and other negative emotions generated by chronic rejection, defensively independent individuals often actively deny their need for love, support, encouragement, sympathy, and other forms of positive response. (See acceptance-rejection syndrome; personality subtheory)
Dependence—The internal, psychologically felt wish or yearning for emotional (vs. instrumental or task oriented) support, care, comfort, attention, nurturance, and similar responses from significant others and attachment figures. Dependence in IPARTheory also refers to the actual behavioral bids individuals make for such responsiveness. For young children, these bids may include clinging to parents, whining or crying when parents unexpectedly depart, and seeking physical proximity with them when they return. Older children and adults may express their need for positive response more symbolically –especially in times of distress—by seeking reassurance, approval, or support, as well as comfort, affection, or solace from people who are important to them–particularly from parents for youths, and from nonparental significant others for adults. Dependence in IPARTheory is construed as a continuum, with independence defining one end of the continuum and dependence the other. (See acceptance-rejection syndrome; personality subtheory)

Emotional responsiveness—Persons’ ability to express their emotions freely and openly. Emotional responsiveness is revealed by the spontaneity and ease with which a person is able to respond emotionally to another person, the extent to which the individual–adult or child–feels comfortable forming warm, intimate, involved, lasting, and non-defensive attachments with other people, attachments that are untroubled by emotional wariness, constriction, or lack of trust. The interpersonal relationships of emotionally responsive people tend to be close and personal, and such people have little trouble responding to the friendship advances of others. In contrast, emotionally unresponsive people are emotionally insulated from others. They have restricted and often only defensive emotional involvement with others. They may, however, be sociable and friendly, but friendliness is not to be confused with the ability to enter into intimate relationships. Some people who are friendly are incapable of having intimate, involved, non-defensive relationships; their relationships tend to be non-personal and somewhat distant emotionally. (See acceptance-rejection syndrome; personality subtheory)
Emotional stability—Individuals’ steadiness of mood, their ability to withstand minor setbacks, failures, difficulties, and other stresses without becoming upset emotionally. Emotionally stable persons tolerate minor stresses and strains of day to day living without becoming emotionally upset, anxious, nervous, tense, or angry. They are able to maintain composure under minor emotional stress. They are fairly constant in their basic mood, and they generally revert quickly to that state following those occasions when they have experienced considerable stress or have been exceptionally provoked. The unstable person, on the other hand, is subject to fairly wide, frequent, and often unpredictable mood shifts that may swing from pole to pole. (See acceptance-rejection syndrome; personality subtheory)
Enculturation—The process of learning to become a responsible adult member of a society as defined by the norms of that society. (See culture, culture learning)
Equivalence of meaning—Refers to qualitatively different symbolic behaviors that share essentially the same underlying meaning. For example (1) receiving a peeled and segmented orange from a parent in West Bengal has much the same symbolic meaning as verbally praising a child in North America; (2) hissing at a woman in St. Kitts, West Indies is roughly equivalent to giving a wolf-whistle in the in the U. S.–both behaviors express a man’s sexual admiration for a woman. In cross-cultural and multi-ethnic studies of parental acceptance-rejection one must strive to be sensitive to issues regarding the equivalence of meaning. (See culture)
Experience—Refers in IPARTheory’s phylogenetic perspective and the phylogenetic model to anything that individuals perceive or anything to which they react as living organisms. It includes experiences with the physical world, the social or interpersonal world, and very importantly, with oneself, including one’s inner world. Also included in the concept of experience is a person’s total history of experiences, probably from the moment of conception but certainly from birth onward. It also includes the kinds of experiences called “learning,” including culture learning (See culture)
Expressive behaviors—Refer in the sociocultural systems model to beliefs and behaviors of individuals that express or reflect their internal psychological states. For example, why do some people prefer simplicity in art whereas others prefer more complex art? Or, why do some believe God is harsh and punitive whereas others believe God is warm and loving–and others do not believe in God at all? These and many other expressive beliefs, preferences, and behaviors tend worldwide to be reliably associated with childhood experiences of parental acceptance-rejection. (See sociocultural systems subtheory; universals in human behavior)

Fear of Intimacy—The concept of fear of intimacy refers in IPARTheory to the condition where individuals are afraid to form—or are anxious about forming—a personal or intimate relationship with another person, especially a person who is important to them. More specifically, the concept refers in IPARTheory to an individual’s reluctance or anxiousness about exchanging thoughts and feelings of a deeply personal nature with someone, especially with a significant other—that is, a person with whom the individual has a significant emotional tie, who is uniquely important to the individual, and who is felt to be interchangeable with no one else. Self-disclosure of deeply personal information leaves the individual vulnerable or at risk for being hurt emotionally or in some other way by the other person.
Firm control—Conditions where parents exercise firm but not rigid or moment-by-moment control over children’s behavior. Children’s (often selfish) demands are effectively resisted. Parents exert firm control at times of parent-child disagreement, but do not hem in the child with many restrictions. Children’s behavior is guided by regimen and parental intervention. (See the control dimension of parenting)
Flexible control—The portion of the control dimension of parenting that includes moderate control and firm control (but excludes permissiveness and restrictive control).
Genotype—The complete genetic endowment of the individual. (See phylogenetic model; phylogenetic perspective)
Holocultural method—A paradigm of research for testing hypotheses “by means of correlations found in a worldwide, comparative study whose units of study are entire societies or cultures, and whose sampling universe is either (a) all known cultures… or (b) all known primitive tribes” (Naroll, Michik, & Naroll,1976).
Hostility—An internal or emotional feeling of enmity, anger, or resentment. Hostility is a principal motivator of aggression. (See aggression; personality subtheory; the warmth dimension of parenting)
Idiographic—A focus on the unique, individual case (versus attempting to generalize to the larger class of which the case is an element). Idiographic contrasts with nomothetic. IPARTheory’s anthroponomical emphasis is nomothetic. (See anthroponomy; universalist approach)
Immature dependence—High levels of parental warmth and affection combined with intrusive parental control–that is, moment-by-moment control over and manipulation of a child’s behavior–are likely to produce an especially noticeable spiking in the dependency curve (see the Figure with dependence). That is, parents who continually say, in effect, “Oh, Honey, don’t do that! You might hurt yourself. Let mommy do it for you,” are likely to reinforce the child’s dependency needs at the same time they interfere with the child’s normal exploration and self-testing. Thus these children often do not develop a full sense of age-appropriate competence, mastery, and a realistic sense of their own limits. The parent reinforces an infantalizing form of dependency. In IPARTheory the form of parenting producing this immature dependency is sometimes called smother love or “smother mothering.” (See dependence; personality subtheory)
Independence—An individual’s relative freedom from the felt-need for positive response. That is, the independent person is one who does not often feel the need to rely on others for emotional support, encouragement, reassurance, comfort, and so forth. Emotionally healthy individuals are able to make these bids from time to time as needed. The important issue is how often and how intensely they feel the need for such positive response. Independence is distinguished in IPARTheory from self-reliance. (See dependence; defensive independence; personality subtheory)
Indeterminance in human behavior—The view held in IPARTheory that, by their very nature, human behavior and development are to some degree indeterminate and therefore probabilistic; they do not follow strict laws or forces such as those postulated in Newtonian physics. Rather, IPARTheory postulates that mental activity (see mental representation) coordinates all human experience. That is, experience is given meaning through mental activity. Experience is thus susceptible to many interpretations. Individual variability in the interpretation of experience may be a major source of partial indeterminance of behavior and development. This variability in the interpretation of experience contributes to IPARTheory’s emphasis on a phenomenological perspective. (See culture; the probability model; universals in human behavior)
Indifference—An emotional state characterized by a lack of concern for or interest in an individual, or not really caring about that person. (See neglect; the warmth dimension of parenting)
Insecurity—Apprehensiveness and anxiousness often evoked by the disruption or threatened disruption of an individual’s relationship with a significant other or attachment figure (e.g., with a parent for the child or with an intimate partner for an adult). (See personality subtheory; psychological adjustment)
Institutionalized expressive systems—Refer in the sociocultural systems model (see Figure) to ubiquitous but essentially nonsurvival oriented features of a society such as a people’s religious beliefs, artistic and musical traditions, their games, folklore, and the like. (See culture; expressive behaviors; sociocultural systems subtheory)
Intracultural variability—The natural variation that occurs with respect to almost any given behavior, belief, or other human characteristic in a given sociocultural system. In IPARTheory research–as in all anthroponomical investigations–one must examine intracultural variability as well as cross-cultural variability. (See anthroponomy; culture; universalist approach)
Interpersonal Rejection Sensitivity (IRS)— IRS refers in interpersonal acceptance-rejection theory (IPARTheory) to A heightened readiness or disposition to perceive negative or hurtful intent in the behavior of others, even when no such intent is objectively present. IRS also includes a readiness to interpret the ambiguous behavior of others as being intentionally hurtful in some way. As such, it involves hypervigilance or watchfulness for the possibility of being criticized, ridiculed, slighted, disrespected, minimized, ignored, excluded, or rejected in some other way. As construed in IPARTheory, IRS is also associated with the experience of hurt feelings or emotional pain, including but not limited to sadness, dejection, depression, anger, and irritation resulting from the real or imagined rejection by others. (See Rejection Expectancy)
Intrusive control—A form of control (usually firm or restrictive) where parents intrude into the child’s activities without regard to the child’s feelings or needs. Intrusive control tends to be motivated more by the parent’s own personal needs or wishes than by a realistic need to monitor or control the child’s actions. Intrusive or interfering parents impose their will on the child with little regard for the child’s own emotional state or current activity. (See control dimension of parenting; immature dependence; restrictive control)
IPAQ—The Intimate Partner Attachment Questionnaire is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) assessing the nature and quality of adults’ attachment relationships with their intimate partners. (See attachment figure; significant other)
IPAR/CQ—The Intimate Partner Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) assessing adults’ perceptions of their intimate partners’ accepting-rejecting and controlling behaviors. Acceptance-rejection and control items on the IPAR/CQ are the same as on the adult Parental Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire. (See PARQ/Control)
IPARTheory—Interpersonal acceptance-rejection theory (IPARTheory) is an evidence based theory of socialization and lifespan development that attempts to predict and explain major consequences, causes, and other correlates of interpersonal acceptance and rejection within the U.S. and worldwide. It attempts to answer five classes of questions divided into three subtheories. Two classes of questions define IPARTheory’s personality subtheory. A third class of questions defines IPARTheory’s coping subtheory. The last two classes of questions define IPARTheory’s sociocultural systems subtheory and sociocultural systems model. The theory includes intimate adult relationships, peer relationships, and all other close interpersonal relationships throughout the lifespan.
Loneliness—Refers to a feeling of unhappiness, despondence, sadness, bleakness, or dejection resulting from the absence of and longing for desired companionship, or as a result of separation from a wanted relationship. Syn: Lonely; lonesome.
Maintenance systems—Refers in the sociocultural systems model (see Figure) to those features of a society that ensure the survival of the family and members of the community, and help maintain the integrity of the population in its physical and cultural sense. Illustrations of maintenance systems include: the way people make a living, ensure social control, and ensure the procreation and socialization of children. (See culture; sociocultural systems subtheory)
Mechanical model—The belief (rejected in IPARTheory) that human behavior is strictly ruleful, and that if the rules, mechanisms, or processes are fully understood, human behavior and development can be predicted with perfect fidelity. Mechanical model theories are typically stated in the at-least-implied form of invariants, constants, or absolutes. G. Stanley Hall’s notions about the universality of adolescent stress, for example, illustrates this when he wrote about adolescence being universally and inevitably a period of storm and stress. Freud’s notion about the universality and inevitability of the Oedipus complex (for the normal development of males) is a second illustration.
Mediation model—The fact (as displayed in the Figure below) that perceived parental acceptance-rejection has both a direct and indirect effect on the development of psychological adjustment (and other) behavioral and developmental outcomes.

Mental representation—An individual’s more-or-less coherent but usually implicit conception of reality. The conception consists largely of generalizations about self, others, and the experiential world constructed from emotionally significant past and current experience. Mental representations about a specific domain (e.g., beliefs and expectations about oneself, significant others, attachment figures, or interpersonal relationships) fall along at least three continua: (1) from being consciously recognized to being wholly unconscious, (2) from being internally consistent and organized to being inconsistent and perhaps chaotic, and (3) from being loosely or flexibly scripted to being tightly or rigidly ruleful. Along with one’s emotional state–which both influences and is influenced by one’s conception of reality—mental representations tend to shape the way in which individuals perceive, construe, and react to new experiences, including interpersonal relationships. Mental representations also influence what and how individuals store and remember experiences. Once created, individuals’ mental representations of self, of significant others, attachment figures, and of the world around them tend to induce them to seek or to avoid certain situations and kinds of people. (See culture; personality subtheory)
Methodology—A class or tradition of research; a research paradigm; a body of methods, postulates, and rules for doing a specific type of research. Illustrations of methodologies include the holocultural method, the experimental method, and survey research. Methodology is to be distinguished from procedure. (See anthroponomy; universalist approach; convergence of methodologies)
Moderate Control—Conditions where parents make relatively few demands on children (e.g., for household responsibility or orderly behavior). Parents allow their children to regulate their own activities as much as possible, but within a few clearly defined and enforced limits. Parents avoid strict, unyielding control. (See control dimension of parenting
Multimethod research strategy—The need to employ a variety of discrete, unrelated research procedures and methodologies in anthroponomical research in order to reduce or even eliminate the likelihood that the results achieved might be an artifact of the potential bias (i.e., systematic error) inherent in every measurement process. If the same results emerge across multiple but independent procedures and methodologies–each containing the potential for its own unique form of bias–then one can be reasonably confident the results are not an artifact of the measurements used. (See anthroponomy; convergence of methodologies and procedures; universalist approach)
Multivariate model of behavior—States that the behavior of the individual (e.g., a child’s coping with perceived rejection) is a function of the interaction between self, other, and context. “Self” characteristics include the child’s mental representations and other internal and external (personality) characteristics. “Other” characteristics include the personal characteristics of the loving or rejecting parent(s), along with the form, frequency, duration, and severity of such behaviors. “Context” characteristics include other significant persons in the child’s life, along with social-situational characteristics of the child’s environment. The multivariate model is often written in quasi-mathematical form: BI = f[SOC]. Where BI refers to the behavior of the individual, f refers to “a function of,” S refers to “self,” O refers to “other,” and C refers to “context.” The parentheses indicate an interaction among elements within their bounds.
Neglect—A condition where parents fail to attend appropriately to the physical, medical, educational, social, emotional, and other needs of the child. Often, neglecting parents pay little attention to children’s needs for comfort, solace, help, or attention. And they may remain physically as well as psychologically unavailable, unresponsive, or inaccessible to the child. (See indifference; the warmth dimension of parenting)
Nomothetic—An interest in or attempt to generalize about some phenomenon, for example the worldwide effects of perceived rejection. Nomothetic contrasts with idiographic. (See anthroponomy; universalist approach)
Parent—Any person who has more or less long-term, primary caregiving responsibility for a child. This person may be a mother, father, grandparent, other relative, or even a non-kinsperson such as a foster parent or parent surrogate in an institutional setting. Parents are generally attachment figures
PAQ—The Personality Assessment Questionnaire is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) designed to measure the seven personality dispositions most central to personality subtheory. Two versions of the PAQ are available: Adult and Child. Collectively the seven dispositions are often used as an operational measure of an individual’s psychological adjustment of the form predicted in personality subtheory and the acceptance-rejection syndrome to be associated universally with the experience of parental acceptance-rejection.
PARIS—The Parental Acceptance-Rejection Interview Schedule is available in two versions: Adult and Child. This is one of the procedures available to assess parents’ accepting and rejecting behaviors.
PARQ—The Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) assessing individuals’ childhood (or infancy) experiences with parental acceptance and rejection. Four versions of the PARQ are available: (1)Adult, (2) Child, (3) Parent: Child version, and (4) Parent: Infant version.
PARQ/Control—The Parental Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) assessing two major dimensions of parenting: parental acceptance-rejection and parental control. (See PARQ; control dimension of parenting; PCS)
PARTheory—(Parental Acceptance-Rejection Theory) was the original name for what is now known as IPARTheory (interpersonal acceptance-rejection theory). The name was changed to IPARTheory in June, 2014.
Passive aggression—Non-active forms of aggression such as pouting, passive obstructionism, sulking, stubbornness, and intentional procrastination when these behaviors are motivated by the intent of irritating or getting back at another person. (See hostility; aggression; personality subtheory)
PCS—The Parental Control Scale is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) designed to assess individuals’ perceptions of the behavioral control (i.e., permissiveness or strictness) they now experience as children, experienced earlier in childhood, or now enforce on their children—including infants. Four versions of the PCS are available: (1) Adult, (2) Child, (3) Parent: Child version, and (4) Parent: Infant version. (See control dimension of parenting; moderate control; permissiveness; restrictive control)
Permissiveness—Conditions where parents attempt to exercise only minimum control over the child’s behavior. The rules, proscriptions, and prescriptions that parents impose on children include only the barest controls needed for safety and physical health. Sometimes little attempt is made to enforce the few rules or restrictions that do exist. Parents are non-directive about much of what the child does. These parents are willing to allow children to do things their own way. Decisions about the child are usually dependent on the child’s own will, whim, or desires about the matter. (See the control dimension of parenting; PCS)
Personality—An individual’s more-or-less stable set of internally motivated predispositions to respond (i.e., affective, cognitive, perceptual, and motivational dispositions) and actual modes of responding (i.e., observable behaviors) in various life situations or contexts. These dispositions and behaviors usually have regularity and orderliness across time and space. (See psychological adjustment)
Personality subtheory—One of the three subtheories of IPARTheory. Personality subtheory focuses on a constellation of personality dispositions that is postulated to characterize rejected children and adults the world over. These dispositions include dependence, healthy independence, and defensive independence, depending on the form, frequency, timing, and severity of rejection; emotional unresponsiveness; hostility, aggression, passive aggression, or problems with the management of hostility and aggression; negative self-esteem; negative self-adequacy; negative worldview; and emotional instability. Each of these personality dispositions falls on a continuum of “more” or “less.” The seven personality dispositions in their “negative” expressions (e.g., emotional unresponsiveness) represent a constellation of interrelated and measurable characteristics that are predicted in personality subtheory and in the acceptance-rejection syndrome to result from the experience of rejection in all sociocultural systems, races, and languages of the world. Additionally, IPARTheory’s personality subtheory postulates that rejected children are likely to experience anxiety and insecurity in their relationship with their rejecting parent(s). As a result of these experiences rejected children are also likely to develop distorted mental representations about themselves, others, the experiential world, and interpersonal relationships. The latter two dispositions are not routinely assessed, however, because valid and reliable measures have yet to be developed for use in multi-ethnic and international research.
Personalizing—The act of reflexively or automatically and egocentrically relating life events to oneself; the act of inappropriately interpreting events primarily in terms of oneself, usually in a negative sense. People who are unable to depersonalize tend to interpret interpersonal encounters, and even accidental events, as having special and direct reference to themselves. That is, they tend to “take everything personally.” According to IPARTheory’s coping subtheory, the capacity to depersonalize provides a social-cognitive (mental representation) resource that allows rejected children and adults to psychologically process hurtful interpersonal interaction in a more benign way.
Phenomenological perspective—IPARTheory’s greater (but not exclusive) emphasis on individuals’ own perceptions or subjective appraisals of their parents’ (or other attachment figures’) accepting or rejecting behaviors than on outsiders’ (e.g., researchers’) appraisals of individuals’ experiences. (See indeterminance in human behavior; probability model)
Phylogenetic model—Asserts that the behavior and development of an individual is a function in some unspecified way of the interaction between an individual’s biological state and experience as modified by cognition or mental activity. The phylogenetic model is often symbolized by the quasi-mathematical formula BI = f[(B x E)C], where BI is the behavior of the individual; f is “a function of;” B is the individual’s biological state; E is experience, and; C is cognition or mental activity. The brackets and parentheses within brackets convey the idea of complex interactions among enclosed elements. (See mental representation; phylogenetic perspective)
Phylogenetic perspective—Asserts that the contemporary behavior and behavior-potential of the species Homo sapiens is a function in an as yet unspecified way of interactions over the millennia between humankind’s biological state and experience. The phylogenetic perspective is often symbolized by the quasi-mathematical formula Bh= f(BxE), where Bh is the behavior potential of humans, f is “a function of,” B is biological state, and E is experience. The product symbol (x) conveys the idea of an interaction between elements within the parentheses. In effect, this perspective recognizes an almost inextricable interaction between nature and nurture.
Physical punishment—The direct or indirect infliction of physical discomfort or pain on a child by a person in a position of authority over the child (e.g., parent), usually for the purpose of (1) stopping a child’s unwanted behavior, (2) preventing the recurrence of unwanted behavior, or (3) because the child failed to do something (s)he was supposed to do. (See PPQ)
Positive response, need for—IPARTheory’s personality subtheory begins with the probably untestable assumption that humans have developed over the course of evolution (see phylogenetic perspective) the enduring, biologically based emotional need for positive response from people most important to them (attachment figures). The need for positive response includes an emotional wish, desire, or yearning (whether consciously recognized or not) for comfort, support, care, concern, nurturance, and the like. In adulthood the need becomes more complex and differentiated to include the wish (recognized or unrecognized) for positive regard from significant others and attachment figures. When individuals act on the emotionally-felt need for positive response (e.g., for comfort, nurturance, support, or love) the resulting behavior is generally called dependence.
PPQ The Physical Punishment Questionnaire is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) designed to assess individuals’ (parents’, adults’, and children’s) perceptions of physical punishment experienced or administered to a child. Three versions are available: adult, child, and parent. (See physical punishment)
Probability model—The view that little in human behavior is absolutely fixed, constant, or invariant. Rather, any given behavior or other outcome has varying degrees of likelihood (probability) of occurring under specific conditions. Part of the reason for this variability in behavioral (and developmental) outcomes—according to IPARTheory—revolves around almost inevitable imperfections in theory and measurement. But it also revolves around the presumption that human behavior is to some degree inherently indeterminant (see indeterminance in human behavior). Unlike mechanical model theories, probability model theories (such as IPARTheory) tend to be written in probabilistic language stating that “perceived parental rejection tends to be associated everywhere with [specific outcomes or antecedents].” (See universals; phylogenetic model)
Problems with the management of hostility and aggression—Conditions where individuals have psychological difficulty recognizing or dealing emotionally with their own feelings of anger, irritation, resentment, hostility, or propensity toward aggression. Problems with the management of hostility and aggression may be revealed in disguised or symbolic forms such as: worried preoccupation about one’s own or others’ imagined hostility; aggressive fantasies, daydreams, or night dreams, and; unusual interest in violent events or activities. (See acceptance-rejection syndrome; personality subtheory)
Procedure—A specific measurement process. That is, a procedure is a single assessment device, measure, or technique of data collection such as interviewing or the use of questionnaires. Each of these is a single, coherent, and integrated procedure for collecting information, and is to be distinguished from a methodology. (See universalist approach; convergence of methodologies)
Psychological adjustment—Refers in IPARTheory primarily but not exclusively to an individual’s position on the composite of seven measurable personality dispositions most central to personality subtheory and the acceptance-rejection syndrome. Psychological adjustment is often measured (i.e., operationally defined) by an individual’s total score on the Personality Assessment Questionnaire (PAQ), which measures these seven dispositions.
Psychological unavailability—A form of parental neglect where parents may be physically present, but do not give the child psychological access to them. The parents do not respond to the child or interact psychologically with him or her. They are inattentive or insensitive to the child’s requests for help when the child is in need. Such parental behaviors are sometimes motivated by indifference toward the child. (See the warmth dimension of parenting)
Rejection—Refers conceptually to the absence or significant withdrawal of warmth, affection, care, comfort, concern, nurturance, support, or simply love by parents and other attachment figures toward children and adults, and by the presence of a variety of physically and psychologically hurtful behaviors and emotions. Worldwide, rejection tends to take four principal forms: (1) emotional coldness and the absence or withdrawal of behaviorally expressed affection; (2) hostility and aggression (3) indifference and neglect and, (4) undifferentiated rejection. The terms parental acceptance and rejection tend to connote positive and negative behaviors, respectively. In everyday American English the phrase “parental rejection” implies bad parenting and sometimes even bad people. In cross-cultural and ethnic research, however, one must try hard not to make such value judgments. Rather, one should attempt to view the phrase as being descriptive of parents’ and others’ behavior, not judgmental or evaluative. This is because parents in about 25% of the world’s societies tend to reject their children (as defined in IPARTheory), though they generally behave in ways they regard as culturally appropriate. (See acceptance; culture; the warmth dimension of parenting)
Rejection Expectancy—Interpersonal rejection expectancy refers in IPARTheory to the anxious expectation of being criticized, ridiculed, slighted, disrespected, minimized, ignored, excluded, or rejected in some other way by others. Rejection expectancy may be an indicator of serious interpersonal rejection sensitivity. (See Interpersonal Rejection sensitivity; IRS)
Restrictive control—Conditions where parents impose many—sometimes moment-by-moment—restrictions or rules (proscriptions and prescriptions) on the child in a wide variety of situations, and firmly enforce these rules, often by physical means if necessary. These parents often limit children’s autonomy to try out their own skills or to behave on their own without parental interference or guidance. (See the control dimension of parenting)
Self-adequacy—Judgments individuals make about their own competence or ability to meet the instrumental/task-oriented demands of day-to-day living. Feelings of positive self-adequacy imply that one views oneself as capable of dealing satisfactorily with problems; as a success or capable of success in the things one sets out to do; as self-assured, self-confident, and socially adequate. Feelings of negative self-adequacy, on the other hand, are feelings of incompetence, the perceived inability to meet day-to-day demands successfully. (See self-evaluation; self-esteem; personality subtheory)
Self-determination—Refers to the extent to which individuals feel they have personal control or influence over important life events and their outcomes. A positive sense of self-determination is one of the social-cognitive dispositions (mental representations) postulated in coping subtheory to help many rejected persons cope more effectively than most with the experience of perceived rejection—though one’s sense of self-determination is itself likely to be affected by the experience of rejection (See copers, affective).
Self-esteem—Refers to the global emotional judgment individuals make about themselves in terms of worth or value. Feelings of positive self-esteem imply that one likes oneself; that one approves of, accepts, and is comfortable with oneself; that one is rarely disappointed in oneself; and that one perceives oneself to be a person of worth and worthy of respect. Negative self-esteem, on the other hand, implies that one dislikes or disapproves of oneself; that one devalues oneself and sometimes feels inferior to others; that one perceives oneself to be a worthless person or worthy of condemnation. (See self-evaluation; self-adequacy; personality theory)
Self-evaluation—Refers to the global judgment individuals tend to make about themselves. It has two principal expressions, as postulated in personality subtheory. These are self-esteem and self-adequacy.
Self-reliance—An individual’s relative freedom from feeling the need to rely on others for help with instrumental or task-oriented activities (vs. emotional reliance on significant others/attachment figures). In IPARTheory self-reliance is distinguished from independence.
Sense of self—Individuals’ (e.g., young children’s) relative awareness of their own individual personhood, internally (that is, distinguishing self from nonself, psychologically, as well as differentiating specific aspects of self from other aspects of self) as well as externally (that is, distinguishing self from nonself as a physical organism). In the course of normal development children gain over time an increasing awareness of self, the world, and interpersonal relationships. At any given age some children have a more differentiated sense of self than do others. Coping subtheory postulates that the more aware children are of themselves (physically and psychologically) as distinct from others (e.g., parents) and all that is not self, the greater the potential they have for being able to distinguish negative/rejecting messages given by parents from messages that children give themselves. This social-cognitive (mental representation) capacity is thought in IPARTheory to provide a resource for helping children cope more effectively than most with the destructive effects of perceived rejection. (See coping, affective)
Sensitive period—A developmental period of heightened vulnerability or sensitivity to the effects of perceived parental rejection, probably from about 18 months up to about adolescence. (See personality subtheory)
Significant other—Any person with whom a child or adult has a relatively long-lasting emotional tie, who is uniquely important to the individual, and who is interchangeable with no one else. (See also attachment figure)
Smother love—The form of parenting where caregivers intrude (often inappropriately) into the child’s activities in an apparently loving but excessively controlling, manipulative way. The child is often smothered with infantilizing, affectionate control, producing a tendency toward immature dependence. (See the dependency curve illustrated under dependence)
Sociocultural systems model—A graphic framework (shown below) to guide conceptual thinking about the antecedents, consequences, and other correlates of parental acceptance-rejection within individuals and within total sociocultural systems. Elements and relations within the model are detailed in Rohner (1986). (See culture; sociocultural systems subtheory; maintenance systems; institutionalized expressive systems)

Sociocultural systems subtheory—One of three subtheories in IPARTheory. This subtheory attempts to explain and predict major worldwide causes of parental acceptance-rejection. The subtheory also attempts to explain and predict major institutionalized expressive systems correlates and individual expressive behavior correlates of parental acceptance-rejection. (See sociocultural systems model)
Species specific—A phenomenon that is unique to a given species of animal, and to only that species. Species specific is distinguished in IPARTheory from species wide. The effects of perceived parental rejection are postulated in IPARTheory to be species wide, but not necessarily species specific.
Species wide—A phenomenon that is characteristic of an entire species. For example the song of a specific species of bird, or in IPARTheory the postulated effects of perceived rejection. To be species wide is not necessarily to be species specific. (See anthroponomy; IPARTheory)
Syndrome—a pattern of behaviors, traits, or dispositions that occur together and that characterize a particular disorder or condition (see acceptance-rejection syndrome). Any single disposition may be found in other conditions. It is the full configuration of dispositions that compose the syndrome.
TARQ/Control—The Teacher’s Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire is a self-report adaptation (procedure) of the standard Child PARQ/Control (short form). It was designed to be used by children to evaluate the acceptance-rejection and behavioral control of their classroom teachers. (See also control dimension of parenting)
TESC—The Teacher’s Evaluation of Student’s Conduct is a self-report questionnaire (procedure) assessing teachers’ perceptions of students’ misconduct including openly disruptive behaviors such as physically and verbally fighting with peers, defiance of teachers’ authority, and refusal to do assigned work. The TESC also includes behaviors that are more subtly disruptive such as lying, cheating, stealing, and stirring up trouble in sneaky ways.
Troubled individuals—Those persons who are psychologically distressed or maladjusted in ways characteristic of rejected individuals, despite being raised in warm and loving (accepting) families. (See Figure associated with coping subtheory; see also personality subtheory; acceptance-rejection syndrome)
Undifferentiated rejection—Individuals’ affectively charged belief that their parents or attachment figures do not really care about them, want them, or love them, but where clear behavioral indicators may be absent that the parents or attachment figures are neglecting, unaffectionate, or aggressive toward them. (See the warmth dimension of parenting)
Universalist approach—Addresses the methodological question: If one is serious about establishing universals in human behavior, how does one go about doing it? In serving the interests of anthroponomy, the universalist approach generally requires (1) a multimethod research strategy (looking for the convergence of results across disparate methodologies and procedures), and; (2) an adequate worldwide, cross-cultural sampling of all races, languages, ethnic groups, genders, and other significant variations relevant to the issue investigated. (See convergence of methodologies and procedures)
Universals—Scientifically derived principles of human behavior and human development that can be shown empirically to generalize across our species (see species wide) under specified conditions wherever they occur. Universals have a high probability of occurring but are not necessarily invariant or constant throughout our species. (See anthroponomy; probability model; species wide; universalist approach)
Warmth—The emotional (vs. behavioral) experience of caring, nurturance, concern, or simply love of one person (e.g., a parent) for another (e.g., a child). (See affection; the warmth dimension of parenting)
Warmth dimension of parenting—A continuum of parenting defined at one end by (perceived) parental acceptance and at the other end by (perceived) parental rejection. All humans can be placed (or place themselves) somewhere along this continuum. The warmth dimension has to do with the quality of the affectional bond between parents and their children, and with the physical and verbal behaviors parents use to express their feelings. The warmth dimension of parenting must be distinguished from parental warmth per se on the warmth/affection scale below.

Worldview—A person’s (often unverbalized) overall evaluation of life, the universe, or the very essence of existence as being more or less positive or negative. A person with a positive worldview sees life as basically good, secure, friendly, happy, or unthreatening, or having some other positive valence. For a person with a negative worldview, on the other hand, life is seen as essentially bad, insecure, threatening, unpleasant, hostile, uncertain, and/or full of many dangers. Worldview, then, is a judgment that individuals make about the quality of existence. It is not to be confused with one’s empirical knowledge of social, economic, political, or other events. (See mental representation; personality subtheory)

Ainsworth, M. (1989). Attachments beyond infancy. American Psychologist, 44, 709-716.
Naroll,R., Michik, G. L., Naroll, F. (1976). Worldwide theory testing. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files.
Rohner, R. P. (1975). They love me, they love me not: A worldwide study of the effects of parental acceptance and rejection. New Haven: HRAF Press, 1975. (now published by ROHNER RESEARCH, Storrs, CT.)
Rohner, R. P. (1984). Toward a conception of culture for cross-cultural psychology. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 15, 111-138.
Rohner, R. P. (1986). The warmth dimension: foundations of parental acceptance-rejection theory. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. (now published by ROHNER RESEARCH, Storrs, CT.)



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