Stress, coping, and perceptions of child adjustment in parents of preschoolers with cerebral palsy

Catherine Elizabeth Wanamaker, Fordham University


This study explored the relationships among stress, coping, and perceptions of child behavior in mothers and fathers of preschoolers with cerebral palsy. Parenting stress was measured by the Parent Domain of the Parenting Stress Index (PSI), depression by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), parenting competence by the Parenting Sense of Competence Satisfaction (PSOCS) and Efficacy (PSOCE) factors, social support by the Social Support Questionnaire Satisfaction (SSQ6-S) and Number (SSQ6-N) Scales, and child behavior by the Eygerg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI) and the Child Domain of the Parenting Stress Index. Children's teachers also completed the Preschool Behavior Questionnaire (PBQ). The degree of association among the stress, coping, and child behavior measures constituted the principal analysis. The subjects were 62 mothers and 22 fathers of nonretarded preschool children (29 girls, 35 boys) with cerebral palsy. Children's ages ranged from 3-years, 0 months, to 6 years, 11 months (M = 4 years, 10 months, SD = 1 year, 2 months). All of the participants were solicited from the Newington Children's Hospital cerebral palsy clinic in Newington, Connecticut. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were calculated among coping, distress, and child behavior measures. For mothers, high levels of parenting stress and depression were related to low levels of social support satisfaction, support network size, parenting satisfaction, and parenting efficacy. For fathers, high levels of parenting stress were related to low levels of parenting satisfaction, and high levels of child maladjustment were related to high levels of depression. A path analysis indicated that maternal social support had a direct, negative effect on distress, while parenting competence mediated the relationship between distress and perceptions of child adjustment. Child behavior and parenting competence had mutual negative effects on each other. The finding that depression and stress were related to social support for mothers suggests that coping efforts may help to alleviate the impact of distress. For fathers, the finding that depression was related to perceptions of child behavior suggests that fathers may need assistance developing effective coping strategies. Clinicians may help to improve family functioning by providing parents with the opportunity to discuss childrearing problems and to share information with other parents.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Behaviorial sciences

Recommended Citation

Wanamaker, Catherine Elizabeth, "Stress, coping, and perceptions of child adjustment in parents of preschoolers with cerebral palsy" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9324633.