Parental correlates of social competence in preschool children with physical handicaps

Jacquelyn M Blitz, Fordham University


This study explored the relationship between perceived family environment characteristics and the social competence of physically handicapped preschoolers. Parenting stress was measured by the Child Domain of the Parenting Stress Index (PSI), marital adjustment by the Abbreviated Dyadic Adjustment Scale (ADAS), family relationships by the Family Relations Index (FRI), and parenting attitudes by the Parental Attitudes toward Child Rearing Instrument (PACR); these self-report questionnaires were completed by mothers. The children's social competence was assessed by the Child Rating Scale (CRS), completed by mothers and teachers, and the teacher-completed ranking method of assessing children's popularity. The degree of association between (a) maternal responses to the self-report questionnaires and (b) mothers' and teachers' ratings of the children's social competence constituted the principal analyses. The subjects were 40 preschoolers (19 female, 21 male) with a mean age of 43.06 months (SD = 9.32), and a mean IQ of 88.6 (SD = 13.63) selected from eight preschools in the New York Metropolitan area. Thirty-three of these children were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and 7 with spina bifida. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were calculated between each family characteristic measure and each social competence measure. High parenting stress and childrearing attitudes low in aggravation were positively related to the children's high social competence, as perceived by mothers. Parenting stress was positively associated with high marital adjustment when the family characteristic measures were correlated with one another. Multiple regression analyses added no noteworthy findings. The finding that parenting stress was not associated with marital stress suggests that families having a handicapped child may cope with stressful life events differently than families without such children (Kazak & Marvin, 1984). The finding that high parenting stress was positively related to high social competence was unexpected, while the negative relationship between aggravation with regard to childrearing and social competence was predicted. Artifacts of instrumentation and social desirability with the PSI may have accounted for these results. Despite the limitations of these findings, they offer clinicians new perspectives when working with parents of handicapped preschoolers, as the experience of stress may be adaptive in promoting the development of social competence.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Blitz, Jacquelyn M, "Parental correlates of social competence in preschool children with physical handicaps" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223806.