Parents' personality and parenting stress in families of children with spina bifida

I P R Vermaes, J M A M Janssens, R A Mullaart, A Vinck, J R M Gerris
Child: Care, Health and Development 2008, 34 (5): 665-74

BACKGROUND: Spina bifida (SB) can place parents at risk for increased levels of parenting stress. Little is known, however, about the role of parents' intrapersonal resources. Therefore, based on ideas of the Disability-Stress-Coping Model, relations between the severity of SB, parents' personality traits and parenting stress were examined.

METHODS: Forty-six mothers and 37 fathers of children with SB (6-14 years) participated. Severity of SB (physical dysfunctions and cognitive functions), parental personality (Big Five) and parenting stress (Parenting Stress Index) were measured. Multiple regression analyses were performed.

RESULTS: The severity of the child's physical dysfunctions was positively associated with parenting stress. Extraversion (mothers only), emotional stability and agreeableness (fathers only) were negatively related to parenting stress. In the final model, 64% of the variance in mothers' and 67% of the variance in fathers' levels of parenting stress was explained. Parents' personality traits explained the largest proportions of variance in parenting stress.

CONCLUSION: Mobility, bladder and bowel dysfunctions in school-aged children with SB represent ongoing stressors for parents. Parents' intrapersonal resources of positive affectivity, however, are more important determinants of parental adjustment to SB than the child's physical dysfunctions.

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