Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Stress and Coping among African American and Hispanic Parents of Deaf Children

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Stress and Coping among African American and Hispanic Parents of Deaf Children

Article excerpt

The authors conducted a correlational study of 98 parents of children with hearing loss to determine the relationships among the parents' stress levels, their reported coping strategies, and the demographic characteristics of themselves and their hearingimpaired children. One unexpected finding was the low level of stress expressed by the sample. One predicted relationship was found. The communicative ability through signing of the child was significantly related to level of stress. The predicted relationships between a parent's marital status, a parent's educational level, the child's sex, and the age at onset of the hearing loss were not confirmed. The study revealed that racial and ethnic group membership was significantly related to the degree of use of several coping strategies. Hispanics differed significantly from African Americans in that they made greater use of coping strategies.

There is an extensive body of literature analyzing the impact of a deaf or hard of hearing child on the family. (Luterman, 1979; Nunberg, 1991). The destructive effect on marital stability has been particularly well documented (Farber & McHale, 1959; Peck & Stephens, 1960). Consequently, many theorists and researchers "generally have assumed that hearing parents of deaf or hard of hearing youths are at risk for the development of psychiatric symptomatology and marital difficulties" (Henggeler, Watson, Whelan, & Malone, 1990, p. 212). Friedrich, Greenberg, and Crnic (1983) found that stress was predicted by level of marital satisfaction, with greater marital satisfaction related to lower reported stress.

Other studies indicate that families cope well in most situations involving children with disabilities (Donovan, 1988; Kazak & Marvin, 1984). Faerstein (1981) concluded that after the initial shock of being informed that their "child was learning disabled, most parents were able to adapt and cope with the situation" (p. 420). Martin, George, O'Neal, and Daly (1987), in a survey of parents of deaf or hard of hearing children, indicated that many parents immediately began to think positively, focusing on "positive attitudes toward [the] child.. acceptance.. sorrow.. [the] need for action to be taken" (p. 28). Kashyap (1983) observed that half the parents in her study stated that the crisis resulting from their child's hearing loss had brought them closer together. Widerstrom (1986) concluded, based on her evaluation of the relevant literature, that it was a myth that "families with a handicapped child have more difficulty coping with daily living than families with nonhandicapped children" (p. 359).

Henggeler et al. (1990) concluded that parents of a deaf or hard of hearing child do not show any significant differences in levels of marital satisfaction or symptomatology relative to parents of children without disabilities. Leventhal and Sabbeth (1986) found that divorce rates among families with a chronically ill member were not substantially higher than those among control families, even though families touched by chronic illness reported higher levels of marital distress. Schell (1981) found that the presence of a deaf child brought some parents closer together.

Other studies have suggested that the child's sex is predictive of stress reactions among parents. Families with girls with disabilities reported less stress than families of disabled boys (Leyser & Dekel, 1991). In particular, fathers of boys with disabilities may have more difficulty adjusting their expectations for their sons (Frey, Greenberg, & Fawell, 1989).

Henggeler et al. (1990) noted that the mothers of deaf or hard of hearing girls reported less family stress than mothers of deaf or hard of hearing boys. However, Frey, Fawell, and Vadasy (1989) reported that parents of girls with disabilities had higher levels of child, family, and personal adjustments than parents of boys with disabilities.

Other studies have been unable to confirm any relationship between the presence of a hearing loss in a child and parental stress (Friedrich, Cohen, & Wilturner, 1987). …

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