Level of maternal stress in mothers with chronic mental illness

Elayne B Haymes, Fordham University

Abstract

Two themes are highlighted in this study. The first refers to a pattern of difference observed in levels of maternal stress between chronically mentally ill mothers raising young children in nuclear family households, as distinct from the levels of maternal stress exhibited by chronically mentally ill mothers raising young children in single and extended family households. Single mothers living alone with their children experience high risk levels of maternal stress in the greatest number of variables studied, followed closely by mothers in extended families. By contrast, mothers living with partners in nuclear families experience normal levels of maternal stress in the greatest number of variables studied. There were a total of 21 variables included in the study.^ For the chronically mentally ill person, a high level of stress is often a precursor to greater dysfunctional behavior and hospitalization. When the chronically mentally ill person is a mother caring for her children, high levels of maternal stress can lead to family disintegration, and possible placement of children into Foster Care.^ The second theme refers to the need to incorporate a normative role perspective into the continuing treatment programs for chronically mentally ill mothers. This is supported by parallel observations described in the literature on similarities of stress patterns between non mentally ill mothers raising children in single and nuclear family households. Both mentally ill and non mentally ill mothers experience different levels of maternal stress related to normative biopsychosocial and economic factors. These factors are further associated with whether the mother is living in a single parent or nuclear family setting. Thus, areas of similarity in patterns of maternal stress exist for both mothers in this study, and for non mentally ill mothers described in the literature. These parallels in maternal role experiences lend support for incorporation of a normative perspective in continuing treatment programs for chronically mentally ill women.^ The study shows that maternal role performance, normative life situations, and maternal level of stress are related. The connection between life stressor events and the experience of maternal role stress is seen in the range of maternal stress scores by mothers living in nuclear, single and extended family households. Raising children in different family types, in combination with specific variables, is related to level of maternal stress.^ The significance of the mental illness is not being minimized in this view. Mental illness symptoms both impact on, and are affected by the totality of the biopsychosocial systems that make up a mother's life. What is supported by this study is the need to include a normative role perspective, along with the mental illness focus of continuing treatment, for the chronically mentally ill mother. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Rehabilitation and Therapy|Social Work|Women's Studies|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Elayne B Haymes, "Level of maternal stress in mothers with chronic mental illness" (January 1, 1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9837340.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9837340

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