Dimensions of parenting stress of mothers and fathers of a school-age child with a disability

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Alice Sterling Honig


Parenting, Stress, Mothers, Fathers, School-age child, Disability

Subject Categories

Education | Family, Life Course, and Society | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology | Special Education and Teaching


This study examined the variances of stress in mothers and fathers of elementary school age children with disabilities. An ecological systems model was used as the conceptual framework to identify the predictor and mediating variables related to stress. Sixty-two mothers and 30 fathers participated. The Parent-Stress Index (PSI), Family, Environment Scale (FES) and the Family Support Scale (FSS) was used to measure parent stress, family harmony and the perceived usefulness of social support. Analysis was conducted at the scale and subscale level. Mothers and fathers reported similar levels of stress. Scores for mothers and fathers were within the normal range on the PSI and the Parent Domain subscale of the PSI. Scores on the Child Domain of the PSI were elevated. Fathers reported having more difficulty with attachment to their child. Specific apriori path models were developed for mothers and fathers. Child behavioral characteristics, acceptability for fathers and care demands for mothers, were significant predictors of parent stress. Socioeconomic status was also a significant predictor of stress for mothers. Family harmony had a strong inverse relationship to parent stress and was a buffer for child behavioral characteristics. Social support contributed indirectly to the models. The findings confirm the appropriateness of using an ecological systems model to examine stress in families with school age children with disabilities.


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