To some, the study of parental beliefs, ideas, or cognitions represents little more than researchers' recent attempts to join a revivalist movement. Early in the study of child development, and especially in the 1950s, it was common procedure to interview parents or to provide them with questionnaires in order to discover information about socialization practices, parent-child relationships, and the home environment (e.g., Dameron, 1955; Miller & Swanson, 1958; Sears, Maccoby, & Levin, 1957; Stolz, 1967). The advantages of these procedures were obvious. Parents know their children and how they think about and interact with them better than anyone else. Their knowledge bases cut both across time and across social contexts. On the downside, however, parents' self-reports may be distorted by "the intrusion of nonfocal personal characteristics via mechanisms of self-deception, self-defense, and impression management" ( Messick, 1983, p. 487). Furthermore, parents may not even be aware of much of their behavior, unless it concerns highly salient events or interactions ( Maccoby & Martin , 1983), and, of course, it has been reported that parents' memories are faulty and cannot be relied on when retrospection is required ( Robins, 1963). And then there is the problem of the verbal report-observed behavior disconnection. Correlations between what parents report that they do with their children and what observers report that parents do with their children are in the miniscule-to-moderate range ( Miller, 1988).
Given these latter problems, it is not surprising that graduate students in the 1960s and 1970s were being warned against interviewing or questioning parents. What is surprising is that many of those warned have become revivalists. Did we not learn our lessons well?