Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Parenting Satisfaction and Self-Efficacy: A Longitudinal Study of Mothers of Children with Down Syndrome

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Parenting Satisfaction and Self-Efficacy: A Longitudinal Study of Mothers of Children with Down Syndrome

Article excerpt


Continuities and changes in parenting seine of competence were examined for mothers of children with Down syndrome from early childhood to adolescence. The sample comprised 25 mothers whose child with Down syndrome was aged 4-6 years in the first phase of the study, and 11-15 years at the second time point. Maternal satisfaction with parenting increased over time, but there were no changes in parenting self-efficacy. Scores on these measures were no different from those reported in a normative sample of mothers of typically developing children, suggesting that the challenges of parenting a child with Down syndrome do not impact significantly on parenting sense of competence during the early childhood and adolescent periods. There were some significant relationships of maternal sense of competence with child characteristics and self-reported parenting style, mostly in the expected direction.

Key words: parenting sense of competence; Down syndrome; parenting self-efficacy; satisfaction with parenting; parenting style; support for autonomy


parenting a child with a disability can be challenging and stressful. Many studies have reported hat parents of a child with a disability experience figher levels of stress (Oelofsen & Richardson, 2006; Parkes, Caravale, Marcelli, Franco, & Colver, 2011) and lower levels of well-being (Bundy & Kunce, 2009; Cheshire, Barlow, & Powell, 2010; Nachshen & Minnes, 2005) than do those whose child is developing typically. In particular, parenting stress tends to be greater when a child has significant behaviour problems (Baker et al., 2003; Norizan & Shamsuddin, 2010).

Although there is a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that parents of children with Down syndrome experience less stress than do families of children with many other disabilities (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010; Griffith, Hastings, Nash, & Hill, 2010; Lewis et al., 2006; Richman, Belmont, Kim, Slavin, & Hayner, 2009), there are indications that stress increases over time for these families. Hauser-Cram, Warfield, Shonkoff, and Krauss (2001) found that the demands associated with parenting a child with Down syndrome increased over a seven year period from early to middle childhood, and two other studies have reported rising stress levels for parents of children with Down syndrome across the early childhood years (Eisenhower, Baker, & Blacher, 2005; Most, Fidler, Booth-Laforce, & Kelly, 2006).

An accumulation of stress may undermine parents' feelings of control (Farmer & Lee, 2011) and, over time, deplete their physical and psychological resources to the extent that they become increasingly worn down by the challenges of parenting (Johnson & Catalano, 1983). Contrasting with this 'wear and tear' hypothesis is an alternative view which suggests that, over time, most parents adapt to the needs of their child with a disability, becoming stronger psychologically and feeling increasingly competent in their parenting as they successfully meet the challenges of the role (Blacher & Baker, 2007; Trute, Benzies, Worthington, Reddon, & Moore, 2010; Ylven, Bjorck-Akesson, & Granlund, 2006).

Family stress, the main focus in many studies of parental adaptation, has been linked to the sense of competence parents feel in relation to their own parenting skills. In a study of mothers of adult children with intellectual disability, Hill and Rose (2009) showed that satisfaction with the parenting role, a key element of parenting sense of competence, mediated the relationship between children's adaptive behaviour and parenting stress, and between family support and parenting stress. For parents of children with intellectual disability, higher feelings of competence have been associated with lower stress (Hassal, Rose, & McDonald, 2005) and, overall, a considerable body of literature has demonstrated the importance of parenting sense of competence as a mediating variable for a wide range of child and family outcomes (see, for example, Dekovic et al. …

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