Academic journal article Family Relations

Low-Income Rural Mothers' Perceptions of Parent Confidence: The Role of Family Health Problems and Partner Status*

Academic journal article Family Relations

Low-Income Rural Mothers' Perceptions of Parent Confidence: The Role of Family Health Problems and Partner Status*

Article excerpt


Parenting confidence can be undermined by the presence of frequent or persistent health problems, particularly for people living in rural communities that have limited access to adequate health care. However, little is known about how minor health problems in the family impact parenting. The current study examined single and coresident mothers' parent confidence in relation to family health problems and parental support in a sample of 303 low-income, rural mothers with young children from 14 states. Results show that the presence of family health problems was negatively associated with parent confidence. For coresident mothers, there was an indirect relationship through perceived parental support.

Key Words: family structure, health, parenting, social support.


There is strong empirical support for the negative impact of stress on parenting confidence and behaviors (Belsky, 1984; Crnic & Low, 2002). Across this body of research, parenting stress has been conceptualized in a multitude of ways, including major negative life events and daily hassles associated with parenting. Research using these two approaches to parenting stress has found support for the impact of both major life events and minor, daily hassles. Crnic and Greenberg (1990) proposed that minor, commonly occurring daily hassles associated with parenting may be better predictors of parent well-being than major life events, which tend to be rare occurrences. Recent work using this approach has found that these two types of Stressors tend to impact parenting in unique ways, which adds support to the notion that daily hassles associated with parenting offer a special form of stress that can compromise parenting (Crnic, Gaze, & Hoffman, 2005; Tein, Sandier, & Zautra, 2000). In particular, one of the critical areas of efficacy as a parent, confidence in one's ability to carry out parenting tasks (Coleman & Karraker, 1998, 2003), has been found to be undermined in the context of stress (Jones & Prinz, 2005). Thus, experiencing consistent and repeated minor Stressors may significantly strain parents' coping abilities by compromising their confidence in themselves as parents.

These minor parenting Stressors can take many forms, such as obtaining regular child care, balancing work and family demands, or handling minor emergencies. One common Stressor experienced by families is the presence of health problems. The presence of health problems can introduce increased demands such as doctor appointments and the administration of medical care at home, all of which can introduce a significant amount of stress on families. Families with young children may be particularly vulnerable to this type of increased stress as they strive to meet the needs of their developing children, and working single parents may be especially prone to disruptions in their work-family balance (Grzywacz et al., 2005; Neblett, 2007; Raver, 2003). Although all families have health problems at some point, families in rural communities may be more at risk for experiencing parenting stress when faced with health-related problems. For instance, families in rural communities have a higher rate of health problems than those in other types of communities because of limited access to health care and inadequate transportation (Bauer, 2004; Health and Human Services Rural Task Force, 2002; Ricketts, 1999). Furthermore, geographic isolation and limited transportation options in rural communities can limit access to parent support systems, which can increase rural parents' stress and compromise the quality of their parenting (Gardner & Cutrona, 2004).

The current study examined mothers' parent confidence in relation to family health problems (i.e., health problems that require regular doctor visits for any member of the household) and parental support while accounting for partner status in a sample of low-income, rural families with young children. …

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