Parenting Regarding Children with Special Needs: Parental Perceptions and Stress

Devorah Neuhaus, Pace University

Abstract

Parenting is an important part of a child's development that begins before the child is born and extends throughout parents' and children's lives. Previous research has shown that parenting is an important indicator of children's later psychological adjustment. According to the parent development theory (PDT), parenting behaviors are generally consistent with individuals' parenting beliefs and perceptions of the parenting role. Thus, parenting beliefs and behaviors contribute to children's adjustment and later developmental outcomes. As such, it becomes important to understand and study parental beliefs and the behaviors associated with these beliefs. If children have special needs, understanding parental beliefs and stress levels is especially important for the professionals working with them. ^ This study examines the relationships between parenting beliefs, parental stress levels, and having children with special needs. Specifically, the seven dimensions of parenting characteristics identified in PDT, including bonding, discipline, education, general welfare and protection, responsivity, sensitivity, and negativity, are examined in relation to parenting stress and children's gender, age, and disability. In this study 112 parents completed the Parent Behavior Importance Questionnaire-Revised (PBIQ-R ) and the Parent Stress Index- Short Form ( PSI-SF). The current study's sample consisted of both parents of special needs children and parents of typically developing children. ^ Results did not show any differences on the PBIQ-R for parents of special needs children compared with parents of typically developing children. However, results indicated that parents of children with special needs reported significantly more stress than parents of typically developing children. Results revealed that parenting stress was related to parent responses on many of the PBIQ-R scales. Total stress was significantly negatively correlated with bonding, education, general welfare and protection, responsivity, and sensitivity. The subscale most contributing to this relationship was the PSI-SF's parent-child dysfunctional interaction subscale, which was significantly negatively correlated to all the positive parenting scales of the PBIQ-R including discipline. The PSI-SF's parent distress subscale was significantly negatively correlated with responsivity and sensitivity. In addition, the current study suggests that parental responses indicating higher levels of responsivity and sensitivity were made by parents who tended to provide elevated responses on the defensive responding subscale of the PSI-SF. That is, these parents tended to be more defensive in their responding and less willing to disclose personal information as measured by the defensive responding subscale of the PSI-SF. ^ Since this study suggests relationships among parent beliefs, parent stress, and children with disabilities, there are implications for treatment, program development, consultation, and future research. For example, the current findings suggest that helping to facilitate a stronger bond between parents and children may be related to a reduction in stress levels experienced by parents. In addition, with a greater understanding of the relationship between stress and parenting, practitioners can assist parents in becoming aware of important factors to address. For example, by recognizing and adjusting parenting beliefs and behaviors, parents may better meet their children's specific needs. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Devorah Neuhaus, "Parenting Regarding Children with Special Needs: Parental Perceptions and Stress" (January 1, 2011). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3451003.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3451003

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