Stress and Coping in Hearing Mothers of Children with Hearing Loss: Factors Affecting Mother and Child Adjustment

By Calderon, Rosemary; Greenberg, Mark T. | American Annals of the Deaf, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Stress and Coping in Hearing Mothers of Children with Hearing Loss: Factors Affecting Mother and Child Adjustment


Calderon, Rosemary, Greenberg, Mark T., American Annals of the Deaf


The present study examines maternal and child adjustment as a result of the application of a stress and coping model (Folkman, Schaefer, & Lazarus 1979) to factors associated with having a school-aged child with a hearing loss. Thirty-six hearing mothers of children with hearing loss participated in the study. Information was gathered through parent and teacher questionnaires and home interviews and observations. Results indicated that ( a ) social support emerged as an important predictor of maternal adjustment as well as a buffer between current life stress and maternal adjustment, and ( b ) maternal problem-solving skill emerged as a significant predictor of child adjustment and as a mediating factor between child's age and teacher rating of child adjustment. The discussion focuses on possible explanations for these findings, the utility of a competency-based rather than psychopathology-based perspective in understanding parent and child outcomes, and implications for intervention strategies.

The diagnosis of hearing loss in a child presents the parents and family of that child with a variety of intrapsychic and "environmental" stresses or challenges. The stresses and challenges of raising a child with hearing loss most often are associated with the diagnosis of the hearing loss, learning new communication methods, being more involved in educational decision making, increasing contact with professionals in a number of disciplines, and purchasing and using technological supports, as well as the everyday experience of having a child who is "different" and communicates in a different manner. Parents may find themselves being overprotective, unsure of appropriate discipline, and constantly explaining their child's hearing loss and unique needs to new friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

As the child matures, families not only continue their efforts to meet familiar needs of their child; they also face new situations and challenges to address and resolve. Parents of very young children who are deaf or hard of hearing may rely more on support groups, professional help, and early intervention programs. Parents of older children with hearing loss may need to use more creative problem solving or seek out less familiar resources or experts to address the very different situations and challenges that present themselves as their child matures. Thus, it is important to investigate what factors in family and child, and their larger ecology, are related to the family's adjustment to hearing loss or to their child's outcome.

Multiple studies assess a single or limited dimension of family life by comparing families with and without deaf children. Depending on the dimension investigated, the results variably lead to the conclusion that hearing loss may or may not have detrimental effects, with some parents and children faring poorly, whereas others appear to function adaptively (Calderon & Greenberg, 1993; Freeman, Malkin, & Hastings, 1975; Greenberg, 1978; Schlesinger & Meadow, 1972; Tavormina, Boll, Dunn, Luscomb, & Taylor, 1981). Thus, the effects of a hearing loss on the family and the individual can vary greatly. It is also evident that families and individuals not only differ widely in their level of adjustment but in the styles used to cope with the hearing loss. Thus, understanding what factors differentiate between those children and families that adjust well and those who do not should have direct implications for the provision of more effective services (Crnic, Friedrich, & Greenberg, 1983). There is a need to use a more sophisticated model of assessment that can account for differential outcomes in families with deaf or hard of hearing children.

Multiple studies exist examining parent, child, and family adjustment to chronic illness or special-needs conditions other than deafness that apply a multidimensional approach to the effort to better understand differential outcomes (Davis, Brown, Bakeman, & Campbell, 1998; Dunst, Trivette, Hamby, & Pollock, 1990; Hanson & Hanline, 1990; levers & Drotar, 1996; Kazak, 1992; Midence, 1994; Miller, Gordon, Daniele, & Diller, 1992; Thompson, Gustafson, Hamlett, & Spock, 1992; Timko, Stovel, & Moos, 1992). …

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