Sense of coherence in mothers of children with developmental delay

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Paul R. Salomone


stress, coping

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Social Psychology | Sociology


In light of the absence of studies on sense of coherence (SOC) in parents in general, and in parents of children with disabilities in particular, the present study was designed to examine the development of SOC and its relationship with reported levels of parental stress, ambiguity of diagnosis, parental adherence to treatment, and parental participation in treatment planning.

Two samples of mothers were included in this study. The target sample included 88 mothers of children with developmental delay, aged 0-36 months who were receiving Early Intervention services. The comparison sample included 100 mothers of children aged 0-36 months who were using Day Care services in the same region. Research methodology involved a mailed survey including three measures: The Orientation to Life Questionnaire (Antonovsky, 1987) was administered to measure SOC; The Parenting Stress Index (Abidin, 1993) was administered to measure stress emanating from the role of parenting; and a 12 question survey designed to measure ambiguity of diagnosis, parental adherence to treatment, and parental perception of participation in treatment planning.

No significant differences were found between the two samples on the SOC, and both samples responded within normal limits on the PSI. PSI subtests of Parental Distress and Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction did differentiate between the two samples. Significant negative relationships were found between the SOC and parental stress. SOC and mother's age were also significantly related. Further analysis of this relationship supported Antonovsky's theory that SOC stabilizes around age 30. For mothers using Early Intervention Services significant relationships were found between SOC and three aspects of their experiences with Early Intervention services: Ambiguity of diagnosis, level of treatment adherence, and perceived level of participation in treatment goal planning. Results were reanalyzed excluding respondents with low scores on the Defensive Responding scale an the PSI and similar findings were obtained. Stepwise multiple regression analyses were performed on each of the samples and indicated that the best predictors of SOC for mothers receiving Day Care services were Total Stress and mother's age. For mothers receiving Early Intervention strives, the best predictors of SOC included Total Stress, child's age, mother's level of education, and sex of child.


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