The Development of a Technique for Assessing the Stresses Experienced by Parents of Young Children

Burke, William T. , Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Abidin, Richard, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Bell, Richard, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Callahan, Carolyn, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Short, Jerry, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Early identification and intervention programs have become the focus of much attention as preventive interventions in the field of mental health. Research in the areas of child development, parent-child interaction and life stress has provided evidence which suggests that it is possible to identify parent-child systems at risk for later difficulty. The stresses which impinge on parents and children have been identified as playing a significant role in the development of emotional and behavioral dysfunction. The present study had as its major goal the development of a technique, based on existing research literature, which could serve as a screening device in identifying parents and children at risk for later difficulty.

Items were developed based on existing research literature and were submitted to a series of 6 pilot testing procedures aimed at 1) establishing face validity and 2) providing the basis for revisions in items and procedures.

Subjects were drawn from among mothers of children less than 3 years of age who brought their children to the well child clinic of a large group pediatric practice in Charlottesville, Va. Mothers participating in the study (N = 208) were asked to complete and return a 126 item questionnaire. :'Ratings were obtained from the mothers 1 pediatricians. These ratings, along with variables related to the family's use of medical services, served as initial indices of concurrent validity.

Data analysis procedures included factor analyses of the questionnaire and the physician ratings and mean differences (T-Test) procedures comparing primiparous and multiparous mothers on the scoring dimensions. Test-retest and alpha reliability coefficients were computed for the total scale and the logically derived subscales. Correlational analyses provided initial information relative to the concurrent validity of the scale.

The results of the study are discussed as presenting good initial evidence for the scale in terms of face validity, construct validity, stability over time and internal consistency. Correlations between scores on the scale and overall stress ratings of mothers made by the doctors were of low magnitude but did achieve statistical significance. Suggestions for future research and potential clinical uses of the scale are presented.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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