The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Social Support and Kinship Care: Examining the Psychometric Properties of the Family Support Scale Among Kinship Caregivers

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 4:30 PM
Nautilus 3 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
David Kondrat, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Jayme Swanke, PhD, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL
Anne Strozier, PhD, Professor, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Kerry Littlewood, PhD, Assistant Professor, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Background and Purpose:Kinship care is increasingly becoming a source for caregiving for children, with about 1.6 million children in the United States being cared for by a grandparent (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2010). Kinship caregiving can tax the surrogate parent emotionally, physically, and financially (Kelly et al., 2000). Social support, including informal and formal sources, is a protective factor that can help kinship caregivers tackle the challenges associated with the added responsibility of caring for a young child. In studies of kinship care, the most frequently used measure of social support is the Family Support Scale (FSS) (Kelly et al, 2011), which was designed to measure a family’s social support (Dunst, Jenkins, & Trivette, 1984) .  However, no one has explored the psychometric properties of the FSS on kinship caregivers. This paper presents findings from two studies that explored the psychometric properties of the FSS among two samples of kinship caregivers.

Methods:The FSS was administered to two samples. The first sample, sample A (n =255), was used to determine the factor structure of the FSS associated with kinship caregivers. The researchers used principle component analysis (PCA) to determine the factor structure of the FSS. The researchers also explored the internal consistency relativity of the total scale and each of the sub-scales that were derived from the PCA. Using the second sample, sample B (n=367), the researchers used confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to determine if the factor structure from the PCA held. 

Results:  Findings from the PCA suggested a four component model. The components were: a) spouse/partner’s family and peer support, b) formal professional support, c) informal community support, and c) family and peer support. The total model accounted for about 50 percent of the item variance. Cornbach’s alpha, a measure of internal consistency reliability, for the total scale was .80, and alphas for the subscale ranged from .82 to .58.  Next, the researchers tested the hypotheses that for kinship caregivers, the FFS was comprised of the four components listed above. The results of the CFA using LISREL indicated a good model fit: χ2 = 356.57 (df= 129), CFI = .89, RMSEA = .069, SRMR = .063. All items loaded strongly on their intended factors, explaining between 14 and 41 percent of the variability of that factor.

Implications for research and practice:  The current study adds to the literature on the FSS by exploring the psychometric properties of the scale among kinship caregivers. Results from this study provide preliminary evidence for a four factor structure of the FSS when used with kinship caregivers. More research is needed on the construct validity of the four factor FSS for kinship caregivers. For social workers engaged in kinship care, the FSS may be of practical use by providing an assessment of social support across the four domains and suggest areas of intervention to strengthen social support among kinship caregivers.