Parenting young children in high -risk settings: A preliminary investigation of parenting stress and coping abilities

Anjali Malhotra Roye, Pace University


Research findings from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (2002) underscore the importance of addressing parent's mental health and well-being in conjunction with interventions to support the optimal development of young children living in poor, high-risk contexts. This study was conducted to explore maternal well-being among mothers of young children with special needs who live in high-risk settings. Specifically, this study explored the constructs of parenting stress and coping among participants, and examined the influences of these variables on parenting behaviors and child outcomes. A total of 27 mothers participated in this study, through oral and written formats. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire used to assess their level of cumulative risk; the Family Resource Scale (Dunst & Leet, 1994), a measure of mother's perceptions of the availability of basic resources needed to care for their young children; the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (Abidin, 1995), a measure of stress related to parenting; the Brief COPE (Carver, 1997), a survey of commonly used coping behaviors; and a Parenting Behaviors Survey, a questionnaire designed for this study to examine parenting behaviors that have been found in the psychological research literature to be associated with parental stress. In addition, mother's completed the Child Behavior Checklist 1½-5 (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000), a measure of problem behaviors in young children during their child's intake into the therapeutic clinic. Correlational analyses was conducted for all variables. No relationships were found between the socio-demographic cumulative risk variables and parenting stress. However, evidence was found for an association between mother's perceptions that they have adequate basic resources to care for their children and distress related to their role as parent. With regards to coping behaviors, this study did not find significant relationships between parenting stress and active coping or parenting stress and social support seeking. However, relationships were found between one type of avoidant coping, denial, and greater overall parenting stress. Greater use of religion to help cope with stress was also associated with lower levels of total parenting stress. On the other hand, mothers who were more likely to withdraw from stressful situations or to blame themselves, experienced greater parenting stress. Parenting stress was not associated with the parenting behaviors measured in this study, with one exception. Mothers who more saw their child's behavior as more challenging and difficult to manage were significantly more likely to over-react when attempting to discipline their children. Several significant relationships were found between subscales in the Active Coping scale and parenting behaviors. No significant relationships were found between any of the subscales comprising the Avoidant coping scale and parenting behaviors, and any of the behaviors in the Social Support seeking scale. However, mothers who were more likely to use distraction to manage feelings of distress were also less likely to be permissive in parenting. Several relationships were found between parenting behaviors and children's externalizing behavior problems (aggression and hyperactivity). Greater direction in parenting was positively associated with externalizing behaviors, while greater warmth and involvement was negatively associated with externalizing behaviors. No other relationships were found between parenting behaviors and childrens' socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes. Finally, the results of several linear regressions were not significant. These models were not able to account for significant variance in total parenting stress, maternal over-reactivity, and children's total behavioral problems. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Roye, Anjali Malhotra, "Parenting young children in high -risk settings: A preliminary investigation of parenting stress and coping abilities" (2006). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3205228.



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