The association between maternal parenting stress and quality of mother -child interactions in various family structures

Nicole J Marin, Pace University

Abstract

Parenting a child is a stressful occupation, even under ideal circumstances. Young children require constant attention and, especially in the first few months of life, must have their every need met on a constant basis. While the full-time job of parenting a young child ideally involves more than one parent, many children grow up in homes that do not have two parents present. Despite the fact that the number of children residing in single-parent and cohabiting families has dramatically increased in recent years, few studies have examined the relationship between parenting stress, family structure, and quality of parent-child interactions. As a result, important distinctions that may have implications for children's attachment relationships and development have remained virtually unexamined. ^ This study examined the association between maternal parenting stress and quality of mother-child interactions across various family structures, namely single, cohabiting, and married-parent families. Additionally, specific correlates of maternal parenting stress and mother-child interactions were investigated. The sample consisted of mothers and children who participated in the National Early Head Start Research and Evaluation project (NEHSRE). Data that were collected when children were 36 months of age were utilized for the purpose of the present study. Demographic information regarding maternal and child characteristics was obtained via structured interviews with mothers taking part in the study, as was information related to family income, family resources, and family structure. The Family Environment Scale (FES) was used to assess the level of family conflict mothers were experiencing, while a modified version of the Preschool version of the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment- Short Form (HOME-SF) was used to evaluate the quality of cognitive and emotional support mothers provided their children within their homes. Additionally, the Parenting Stress Index- Short Form (PSI-SF) was used to measure the level of parenting stress mothers were experiencing, and the quality of mother-child interactions was assessed by means of two videotapes play activities between mothers and children. ^ The results revealed that mothers who experienced various risk factors, including maternal, child, and familial risk factors, experienced higher levels of parenting stress than mothers who did not experience these risk factors. The results further revealed mothers who experienced higher levels of parenting stress and family conflict were less likely to engage in positive interactions with their children than mothers who experienced lower levels of parenting stress and family conflict. Additionally, the results indicated that mothers who were married engaged in more positive mother-child interactions than mothers who were cohabiting or single; cohabiting and single mothers did not differ from one another in terms of their engagement of positive mother-child interactions. The findings did not indicate that the relationship between maternal parenting stress and mother-child interactions was moderated by family structure, though the results revealed that many of the differences in the quality of mother-child interactions were accounted for by maternal demographic characteristics. Future studies should continue to investigate the relationship between family structure, parenting stress, and quality of parent-child interactions. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Nicole J Marin, "The association between maternal parenting stress and quality of mother -child interactions in various family structures" (January 1, 2007). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3272961.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3272961

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