Effects of gender, appraisal, coping, and social support on perceived distress in parents of preschoolers with handicaps

Elise Vetere, Fordham University

Abstract

In this study, it was hypothesized that the gender of the parent would have an effect on parental appraisal of the child's characteristics as a stressor, the use of social supports and cognitive coping strategies, and that all four (i.e., gender, appraisal, cognitive coping, and social support) would affect perceived psychological distress in parents of preschoolers with developmental disabilities.^ Subjects included 112 parents (56 mothers and 56 fathers) of preschoolers with developmental disabilities who attended special education preschools throughout New York State. Subjects were asked to complete self-report questionnaires: (a) the Parenting Stress Index (PSI; Abidin, 1990); (b) the Ways of Coping Checklist (WOC; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984); and (c) the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL; S. Cohen et al., 1985). Scores from the child domain and parent domain of the PSI measured the variables of appraisal and perceived parental distress respectively. Linear composite scores from the WOC and ISEL measured the variables of cognitive coping and social support respectively.^ Three path analyses (e.g., one for the males, another for the females, and the last for the total group) were conducted to demonstrate a unidirectional, causal relationship between the independent variables of gender, appraisal, cognitive coping, social support, and the dependent variable of perceived parental distress. The results indicated that for all three groups appraisal of the child's characteristics as a stressor had the greatest direct effect on perceived distress. In addition, appraisal led to increased use of cognitive coping strategies. However, the results also revealed that cognitive coping did not effectively mediate perceived distress. Finally, the results of t tests and an alternative path model indicated that females utilized social supports more than males.^ These findings added support to the current literature demonstrating that the research variables of gender of the parent, appraisal of the child's characteristics as a stressor, social support, and cognitive coping influenced the amount of perceived parental distress. The results may highlight to clinicians the need to help parents realistically identify the stressful characteristics of their child and to prevent ineffective coping, poor parental self-image, and possible dysfunctional parenting. ^

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Developmental psychology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Vetere, Elise, "Effects of gender, appraisal, coping, and social support on perceived distress in parents of preschoolers with handicaps" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511253.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9511253

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