Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parenting Self-Efficacy of HIV-Infected Mothers: The Role of Social Support

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parenting Self-Efficacy of HIV-Infected Mothers: The Role of Social Support

Article excerpt

Parenting self-efficacy is a crucial component of parenting competence. In this study, we examine differences in parenting self-efficacy and the relationship of social support to parenting self-efficacy for HIV-infected and uninfected mothers. We test competing hypotheses about how social support may relate to self-efficacy in the two groups of women. Participants were 205 African American mothers, one third of whom were infected with HIV Results indicate that HlV-infected mothers reported lower levels of parenting self-efficacy than did mothers who were not infected. Furthermore, the relationship between social support and parenting self-efficacy differed according to HIV status.

Key Words: AIDS, chronic illness, HIV, parenting self-efficacy, social support.

Since the onset of the AIDS epidemic, researchers have attempted to untangle components associated with physical and psychosocial functioning. Although the epidemic initially was concentrated within populations of homosexuals and intravenous drug users, its reach extends to every part of our society. Minority women are currently the hardest hit and most understudied (Centers for Disease Control, 1997). Among African American women of childbearing age (25-44 years), AIDS is the leading cause of death (Phillips, 1997). In this population, the effects of HIV/AIDS infection reverberate through entire families and particularly influence children of mothers who are parenting under the stress of living with HIV (Kotchick et al., 1997) and the eventuality of their death (Armistead & Forehand, 1995).

Not only are many HIV-infected women mothers, but often they are the primary or sole caretaker for one or more of their children under the age of 18 (Michaels & Levine, 1992). In addition, most of the families of these minority women are in the lowest socioeconomic brackets, a position that exposes them to multiple stressors (Armistead & Forehand, 1995). Maternal HIV infection, then, superimposes a host of additional stresses on already difficult life circumstances. In fact, Quinn (1993) states that "African American women with HIV disease constitute one of the least powerful and most burdened segments of society" (p. 305).

Families of these women face psychological and practical challenges that accompany chronic and terminal illnesses, including disruptions .of family roles, anticipatory grief, escalation of economic stress, and future planning for children in the case of the mother's death. Moreover, they must confront other issues unique to HIV, such as social stigmatization and illness disclosure (Armistead & Forehand, 1995). Given that many HIVinfected women are single mothers, AIDS has the potential to lead to repeated mother-and-child separations, to create disruptions in custody and residence for children, and to leave them orphans (Michaels & Levine, 1992). To optimize the quality of life for these women and their children as they face these profound stressors, it is crucial for psychosocial research to identify variables that may bolster their well-being.

Our study examines one such variable, parenting self-efficacy, which can be viewed as a parent's ability to perform a range of valued behaviors that relate to optimal child development. Parenting self-efficacy is a potentially crucial component of both mother and child well-being for two reasons. First, individuals who perceive themselves as high in parenting self-efficacy exhibit greater competency in parenting behaviors, including increased monitoring of their children and responsiveness to their children (Bogenschneider, Small, Ac Tsay, 1997). These findings support earlier work by Elder, Eccles, Ardelt, and Lord (1995), who found that African American parents who feel efficacious are more likely to engage in promotive and preventative parenting strategies (e.g., helping children with school work and monitoring). Furthermore, other research suggests that higher levels of parenting self-efficacy are associated with better psychosocial adjustment of children (Rodrique, Geffken, Clark, Hunt, & Fishel, 1994). …

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