Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Resilience Factors Associated with Adaptation in Families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Resilience Factors Associated with Adaptation in Families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Article excerpt

THE STUDY OBJECTIVE was to identify and explore resilience qualities that help protect and support families facing the adversity associated with having a child with hearing loss. The Resiliency Model of Family Stress, Adjustment, and Adaptation (M. A. McCubbin & H. I. McCubbin, 1993, 1996) provided the study's theoretical framework. The 54 participating families resided in Western Cape Province, South Africa, and were identified according to the nature of the crisis (having a child with hearing loss) and the family's developmental phase. Quantitative and qualitative measures were used for data collection. The results showed that family time and routines, social support, affirming communication, family hardiness, problem-solving skills, religion, a search for meaning, and acceptance of the child's hearing status were associated with family resilience. Strengthening these elements helps families to grow, meet challenges, and reestablish balance and harmony within the family system.

Keywords: adaptation, children, deaf, families, hard of hearing, resilience

No family, regardless of racial, ethnic, cultural, or social background, is immune to the possibility that their child may have a disability such as deafness. A diagnosis of hearing loss inevitably comes as a shock, and can have adverse effects in various domains of family life, including the marital relationship, family socialization practices, and normal family routines (Greeff & "Van der Walt, 2010; Jackson & Turnbull, 2004).

For decades, the dominant perspective was that families have a difficult time adjusting to the presence of a deaf or hard of hearing child (Luckner & Velaski, 2004). Much attention was given to pathology, with the image of these families being one of sorrow, depression, and emotional turmoil. More recently, however, studies have found that, despite the many challenges faced by families with deaf and hard of hearing children, some families cope remarkably well (Hartshorne, 2002; Moores, Jatho, & Dunn, 2001). The question thus arises as to what the key family processes and qualities are that empower these families to adapt and be resilient.

Resilience is described as the ability to bounce back after being exposed to hardships or stressful life events (Hawley, 2000). It refers to (a) those key processes that assist families in coping more effectively and emerging stronger from crises; (b) the ability to endure in stressful situations; and (c) a process of adaptation, with an emphasis on strengths and resources rather than pathology (Hawley, 2000; Hawley & DeHaan, 1996; Walsh, 1996). These characterizations are not meant to imply that a resilient family will move through the crisis related to a child's deafness unscathed, but, rather, that the family will integrate the experience into its identity in order to return to a level of functioning at or above the precrisis level (Walsh, 2002).

The Resiliency Model of Stress, Adjustment, and Adaptation (M. A. McCubbin & H. I. McCubbin, 1993) was used as a theoretical basis in the present study for understanding the processes, factors, and dynamics that influence how a child's deafness affects the family. The Resiliency Model enables the researcher to measure the resilience process by mapping it in terms of stressors and risks, protective factors, and adaptation (Smith, 2006). It can be assumed that most, if not all, families will struggle to adjust to the deafness, and the demands of having a child with a disability may exceed the resources and coping strategies the family brings to the situation. According to the Resiliency Model, following the crisis brought about by the diagnosis of a hearing impairment, the family's situation is exacerbated by the piling up of demands, which increases the vulnerability of the family. Families then typically take on the challenge of changing in order to achieve a level of adaptation characterized by balance and harmony. …

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