Academic journal article Journal of Nursing Measurement

Development and Testing of a Scale to Measure Separation Anxiety of Parents of Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Nursing Measurement

Development and Testing of a Scale to Measure Separation Anxiety of Parents of Adolescents

Article excerpt

Separation anxiety as an experience of parents of adolescents remains underinvestigated. The purpose of this study was to develop an instrument to assess parental separation anxiety of mothers and fathers of adolescent sons and daughters, that is, the Parental Separation Anxiety Scale (PSAS). The Maternal Separation Anxiety Scale was adapted to address this purpose. Three studies were conducted to assess item performance, internal consistency and test-retest reliability, and construct and predictive validity. Internal consistency reliability ranged from 0.91 to 0.93 across samples. Factor analysis indicated four factors with a primary factor (70% of variance) that was consistent with attachment theory. Parental separation anxiety was negatively associated with global relationship quality ( r = - 0.23, p = .01). Maternal separation anxiety was negatively associated with cognitive autonomy of sons ( r = - 0.34, p = .05), while paternal separation anxiety was positively associated with cognitive autonomy of daughters ( r = 0.20, p = .05). It was concluded that the final 18-item PSAS has good psychometric qualities and is appropriate for use with parents of chronically ill and healthy adolescents.

Keywords: adolescents; separation anxiety; parents; diabetes

Separation anxiety, the apprehension, fear, guilt, or nervousness experienced in relation to separation from a significant other (adapted from Hock, McBride and Gnezda, 1989), is widely recognized. Although separation anxiety is conceptualized as an outgrowth of a dyadic relationship (Schaffer, 1977), separation anxiety has been described in the literature predominantly as an experience of discomfort in infants and young children. Significant attention has also been given to the examination of separation discomfort experienced by the mother in relation to her infant (DeMeis, Hock, & McBride, 1986; Hock, DeMeis, & McBride, 1988; Hock et al., 1989; Lutz & Hock, 1995) and young children (Hock, Shirtzinger, & Lutz, 1992), but little is known about separation anxiety in later developmental stages and in fathers. More recently, separation anxiety in parents of adolescents has been examined (Hock, Eberly, Bartle-Haring, Ellwanger, & Widaman, 2001).

Separation anxiety in parents of adolescents is particularly important because the most significant normative separation beyond childhood is believed to occur during adolescence (Berman & Sperling, 1991). Problems in emotions and behaviors can emerge among adolescents who are changing their relationships with parental and other attachment figures, especially when these attachments are overly strong (Berman & Sperling, 1991; Bowlby, 1977, 1988). Relatively little is known about the separation reactions of parents in response to changes in their relationships with their adolescent sons and daughters. Moreover, if the experience of separation anxiety by parents is strong and sustained it might interfere with normal developmental experiences of separation by adolescents and their parents.

A chronic illness in an adolescent can contribute to sustained separation anxiety in a parent because of stress, increased threat, and anticipatory grief that occur with exacerbations of the illness. A stressor, such as chronic illness, may heighten the parent's need for closeness and physical proximity and thus influence adolescent developmental outcomes (Ainsworth, 1973). Moreover, since adolescence is a time of gender intensification (Crouther, Manke, & McHale, 1995; Galambos, Almeida, & Petersen, 1990), separation anxiety may be influenced by both gender of parent and gender of the adolescent. Thus, instruments are needed that are sensitive to gender-based differences in separation anxiety among mothers and fathers of healthy and chronically ill adolescents. This article describes the adaptation and testing of such an instrument, including initial scale development and three subsequent studies to assess reliability and validity. …

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