A comparison of mothers' and fathers' experience of parenting stress and attributions for parent child interaction outcomes

Susan A Esdaile, Kenneth Mark Greenwood
Occupational Therapy International 2003, 10 (2): 115-26
Parents of children with disabilities are vulnerable to parenting stress, which may place them at physical and psychological risk. However, it is not clear whether fathers experience stress differently to mothers, or whether their experiences are reported less frequently. Additionally, there is little reported on the relationships and gender differences between mothers' and fathers' attributions for parent child interaction outcomes. Parenting stress was assessed in this study using Abidin's (1990) Parenting Stress Index (PSI), and parenting attributions were assessed using the original (Bugental et al., 1989; Bugental and Shennum, 1984), and modified versions of the Parenting Attribution Test, also known as the Child Interaction Survey (CIS) (M-CIS: Esdaile and Greenwood, 1995b). Participants were 53 mothers and 25 fathers of children with disabilities. Having a child with a disability was associated with elevated scores on the PSI; some gender differences were found. Only one significant outcome was found on the assessment of parenting attributions. Thus, the findings suggest that further research is indicated to explore differences in mothers' and fathers' experiences of parenting stress, and the assessment of parenting attributions. The fact that having a child with a disability was associated with elevated scores on the PSI for both mothers and fathers indicates the importance of considering stress management as an integral part of occupational therapy programmes that involve parents of children with special needs. Therapists also need to consider possible gender differences when planning stress management programmes including both mothers and fathers of children with disabilities.

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