Sense of coherence and parenting stress in mothers and fathers of preschool children with developmental disability

Natius Oelofsen, Phil Richardson
Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability 2006, 31 (1): 1-12

BACKGROUND: Few previous studies have examined Antonovsky's (1979, 1987) sense of coherence (SOC) in parents of young children with developmental disability (DD). This study explored relationships between parental stress, SOC, social support, and health in parents of preschool children with and without DD. A secondary aim was to explore the relevance of the SOC construct to parental adjustment.

METHOD: Data were analysed from 59 families with preschool children with DD and 45 families of typically developing preschoolers (children without DD) who completed the study questionnaire.

RESULTS: Mothers and fathers of children with DD reported high levels of parenting stress, with 84% of mothers' and 67% of fathers' scores falling within the clinical range. Parents of children with DD consistently reported higher levels of parenting stress, weaker SOC, and, for mothers and parents in 2-parent families, poorer health than parents of children without DD. Within families, mothers of children with DD reported poorer health, higher levels of parenting stress, and weaker SOC than their partners. There were no significant differences in reported health, parenting stress, or SOC between parents of children without DD.

CONCLUSIONS: The results supported previous findings on high levels of parental stress in parents of preschool children with DD. The weaker SOC of parents of children with DD is likely to be an indication of the pervasive impact on parents of their child's DD. These findings also indicated possible gender differences in parental adjustment to their child's DD. Overall, the findings of this study support the usefulness of SOC theory in understanding adaptation in parents of children with DD.

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