The Impact of Child Disability on Marriage, Parenting, and Attachment: Relationships in Families With a Child With Cerebral Palsy

Mullen, Stacey Watkins , Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Pianta, Robert, Dean's Office, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Abidin, Richard, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Lawrence, Edith, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Marvin, Robert, Department of Psychiatry and NB Sciences, University of Virginia

120 families with a child between the ages of 1 and 4 years participated in a study of the impact of child disability on family relationships. 78 children had the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, while 42 children were nondisabled. Information was gathered on parents' marital satisfaction, parenting stress, and child-mother attachment. Families were divided into groups based on the presence I severity of the child's disability. Three main purposes of the study were to: 1) Examine how child impairment is related to parents' marital satisfaction, parenting stress, and attachment, 2) Examine the associations between these relational constructs, and 3) To determine if there are group differences in the nature and magnitude of associations. Results indicated child impairment was not significantly related to marital satisfaction or child-parent attachment. However, increased severity of child disability was related to higher parenting stress levels. Across the entire sample, lower levels of parenting stress were associated with higher marital satisfaction and more positive attachment outcomes. However, the nature of these associations changed when they were examined within groups. In families with severely impaired children, marital satisfaction was more closely related to child-mother attachment, while in families with mildly impaired children, parenting stress was more closely associated with attachment. There was a significant motor impairment by security of attachment interaction effect on marital satisfaction. In families of severely impaired children, insecure children had parents with the lowest reported marital satisfaction, while parents of secure children reported the highest levels of marital satisfaction. Among control families, no clear pattern of relations among marriage, parenting, and attachment emerged.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: