Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16546 Predictors of Parenting Stress for Child Welfare Involved Families

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 3:30 PM
Cabin John (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Jessica Rodriguez-JenKins, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Maureen O. Marcenko, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Sara Green, MA, Doctoral Student, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background and purpose: Identifying and addressing child maltreatment correlates is critical given the serious long-term health consequences of maltreatment for children (Kaplow & Widom 2007; Lanier et al, 2010) and the persistent negative impacts on families (Malet et al. 2009). An ecological framework is advanced to conceptualize the complex interplay of parent and child characteristics, familial and community characteristics, and social and cultural influences (Garbarino, 1977). Several studies have shown that stress, specifically related to parenting, is a significant risk factor linked to increased risk of child abuse and neglect (Stith et al, 2009). In light of these findings, it is important to understand the factors associated with parenting stress in child welfare involved families, both as a preventative mechanism and as an opportunity for targeted intervention. This study examines the relationship between ecological factors (parent, child, familial, and social) and parenting stress in a large statewide sample of child welfare involved families.

Methods: In-person interviews were conducted with a statewide sample of parents, 18 years and older, with a child welfare case opened for in-home (43%) or out-of-home services (57%) in the past 30 to 180 days (n = 809; response rate = 82%). A structured questionnaire was used to collect demographics, standardized measures of domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse, and trauma, in addition to financial hardship. The Parental Stress Scale, was used to measure parenting stress(α = .85) (Abidin, 1995). We estimate a multivariate model to examine possible parent, child, familial and social predictors of parenting stress.

Results: A multivariate analysis controlling for parent characteristics (age, race, substance use, prior sexual abuse), familial characteristics (in-home vs. out-of-home care, partner status, number of children and adults, presence of young children, domestic violence), and social characteristics (housing and economic hardship) showed that parental mental health (p < .005) and child mental health (p = .000) had a strong positive relationship with parenting stress. Parents whose children were in out-of-home care reported less stressed than parents who were receiving in-home supervision (p < .05). Furthermore, parental age had a strong positive relationship with parenting stress (p = .006). The adjusted R2 is .13.

Conclusions and implications: Our analysis underscores the importance of attending to child and parent mental health in families known to the child welfare system. It is well-established that children in the child welfare system are at increased risk of mental health problems (Burns et al. 2004). However, our findings point to the need for mental health screening of children whose families are receiving in-home supervision, especially given the number of evidence-based interventions available in many communities. Similarly, mental health services for parents are needed to lessen parenting stress and support positive parenting. That parents of placed children report less stress is open to interpretation, but it may simply reflect relief from the daily pressures of parenting. Evidence suggests that children's behavioral problems can escalate upon return home (Bellamy, 2008), highlighting the importance of addressing child and parent mental health while children are in care.

<< Previous Abstract | Next Abstract