The development of the child unpredictability schema: Regulation through maternal life history trade-offs

Tomás Cabeza De Baca, Melissa A. Barnett, Bruce J. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Guided by life history theory, the present study (a) developed and provided preliminary validation data for a self-report measure of a childhood unpredictability schema (i.e., a worldview where children perceive other people and future outcomes as unreliable and unpredictable) and (b) tested for the effects of maternal life history strategy and its behavioral components on development of the child's unpredictability schema. Because maternal life history strategy may impact her child's physical, mental, and cognitive/ emotional functioning, the authors included both a general measure of the mother's life history strategy and specific measures of her parental effort and mating effort. Sixtyfive 10-12-year-old children and their mothers participated in the current study. The sample was economically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse (53% of mothers were of Hispanic/Latino descent). Consistent with life history theory, both maternal mating effort and parental effort were associated with the child's unpredictability schema, with less mating effort and more parental effort predicting a less developed schema. Results also revealed a quadratic "floor effect," whereby higher levels of parental effort showed a curvilinear association with lower levels (i.e., less developed) of child unpredictability schema. The new measure of child unpredictability schema performed as expected and may prove useful for future research in this domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-55
Number of pages13
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Life history theory
  • Mating effort
  • Parental effort
  • Unpredictability schema

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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