Methods. Analyses are based on a probability sample of African Americans living in Milwaukee. This sample was collected as part of the Midlife in the US (MIDUS) study, a national probability sample of adults aged 18 and over. Among the total sample (n = 592), 40 parents were identified as having a child with either a developmental (e.g., mental retardation) or a mental health problem (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder). These parents were compared to parents in the sample who do not have a child with a disability and have not assumed other caregiving responsibilities in the past year (n = 399). Descriptive statistics are used to examine mean differences in the levels of well-being between parents of children with a disability and parents of non-disabled children. Regression models are used to examine the main effect of having a child with a disability and the moderating effect of positive and negative support from family.
Results. Consistent with previous research largely based on Caucasian sample, having a child with a disability was associated with higher negative affect and more somatic symptoms among African Americans living in Milwaukee. However, having a child with a disability did not significantly affect positive affect. As for the moderating effect of family support, results showed that the negative impact of having a child with a disability on negative affect is reduced when parents receive greater positive support and lower negative support from family. Negative support from family did not have any significant moderating effect.
Conclusions and Implications. Given the significance of the role that that the extended family plays in African American community and the higher prevalence of single parents raising children with a disability in this population, identifying ways to foster support and understanding of the disability within the extended family can help parents of children with a disability better adjust to their non-normative parenting role. Using larger samples, future studies should also look into how structural aspects of family support (e.g., presence of co-residing family members) affect the ways that parents cope with the stress of caring for a child with a disability.