Abstract: (Withdrawn) Parenting Practices of Parents with and without Intellectual Disabilities (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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357P (Withdrawn) Parenting Practices of Parents with and without Intellectual Disabilities

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Melanie Mertens, B.S., Graduate Assistant, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Wendy Zeitlin, PhD, Assistant Professor, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Background. People with intellectual disabilities (ID) have historically faced stigma and discrimination based on their disability status including involuntary sterilization during the eugenics movement to prevent them from becoming parents. Today there is still a misconception that people with ID are not capable of being good parents. For parents with intellectual disabilities, surveillance bias and stigma may put them at greater risk of involvement with the child welfare system. The current study compares observed and self-reported parenting practices of parents with and without ID.

Methods. This study uses data from the Fragile Families Child Well-being Study to compare parenting behaviors of mothers with ID (n= 66) to mothers without ID (n = 2, 202) when their children were three years old. The Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale measured mothers’ self-report of non-violent discipline, physical and psychological aggression, and aspects of neglect. The Home Observation for the Measurement of the Environment Inventory was assessed by an outside observer measuring parental responsiveness, acceptance, and involvement. National weights were applied during the bivariate analysis to make findings generalizable to the population of children born in large cities in the United States.

Results. Mothers with ID had a moderate and significantly lower non-violent discipline scores compared to mothers without ID (MEAN=44.46 v. 59.46)(p=0.01; d=0.51). Mothers with ID also had more difficulty demonstrating affection for their child (9.20%) compared to mothers without ID (4.36%)(X2=2.46; p=0.05; OR=1.37). There were small non-significant differences between mothers with and without intellectual disabilities on the physical assault subscale (d = 0.21) with mothers with ID having lower levels of physical aggression towards their children. Finally, the involvement subscale (d = 0.26) had a small non-significant difference between groups with mothers with ID displaying less involvement with their child. All other scales had non-significant results with minimal effect sizes.

Conclusion and Implications. Though there seems to be a perception that parents with ID have poor parenting skills, this study revealed that there are limited differences between the parenting skills of mothers with and without ID. While parents differ in non-violent discipline behaviors, this subscale primarily focused on positive parenting behaviors not necessarily associated with child maltreatment, and mothers with ID were less likely to engage in physical aggression than their non-disabled peers. This lends to the idea that professionals should engage in anti-ableist practices. Parents with intellectual disability interact with their children in much the same way as non-disabled parents. These findings have implications for public health practice and policy. Direct service providers should conduct assessments without making assumptions about the parenting capacity of parents with ID. Policies targeting intellectual disability should be reevaluated (e.g., child welfare legislation allowing termination of parental rights based on disability status) so as not to be discriminatory.