Date of Award

Summer 8-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Dr. Bonnie C. Nicholson

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Tammy Barry

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Dr. Heather Sterling-Turner

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 4

Dr. Emily Bullock

Committee Member 4 Department

Psychology

Abstract

Hope, optimism, and social support have been shown to be important protective factors for parents of children with intellectual disabilities, and these factors have been shown to have important relationships with parenting behaviors. Hope and optimism have not been studied as possible predictive variables for parenting behaviors for this population, and the interactions of these three variables with parenting behaviors have not been examined with this population. Stress has been shown to relate to positive and negative parenting behaviors (Abidin, 1995), and high levels of stress are correlated with a perception of low levels of social support. No studies have examined the relationships between hope and optimism and stress as these relate to parenting behaviors, and no studies have examined social support in relation to hope, optimism and stress among parents of children with mental retardation (Kashdan et al., 2002). This study explored the relationships among hope, optimism, social support and parenting behaviors as well as hope, optimism, stress and parenting behaviors while controlling for social support in a sample of caregivers of children with intellectual disabilities. It was hypothesized that hope and optimism will moderate the relationship between social support and parenting behaviors and that hope and optimism will moderate the relationship between stress and parenting behaviors when controlling for social support. Neither hope nor optimism moderated the relationship between social support and positive parenting behaviors. In the current study social support and hope were found to predict positive parenting behaviors in caregivers of children with intellectual deficits. Optimism was not found to predict a significant amount of the variance in positive parenting behaviors. Neither hope nor optimism moderated the relationship between stress and negative behaviors when controlling for social support. Stress was found to predict positive but not negative parenting behaviors when controlling for social support. The results of this study have important implications for clinical practice and future research. Social support and hope may be considered factors protective against negative outcomes in the lives of caregivers of children with intellectual deficits. Mental health clinicians may assist in increasing positive parenting behaviors in caregivers of children with intellectual deficits by providing programs that would increase caregivers’ experience of social support and hope. The impact of stress on positive parenting behaviors that was evident in this study may also indicate that programs that decrease stress in parents can lead to more positive parenting behaviors.

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