, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 285-296

A professional support program for families of handicapped preschoolers: Decrease in maternal stress

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This study investigated the effects of long-term social agency support for families with disabled preschoolers. The hypothesis that stress would be greater for mothers of children with a severe rather than mild disability was supported. Mothers caring for an infant under two years with a disability reported more stress than mothers of preschool age children, but sex of child was not related to maternal stress. Married mothers reported higher stress than single parents. Agencies may need to tailor program supports more specifically for fathers. Maternal stress was modified by program support regardless of high or low SES or Welfare recipient status or extent of personal support network. Maternal responses on the Questionnaire on Resources and Stress (QRS-F) revealed that the total sample of mothers of disabled preschoolers reported low stress as tallied by the “Perception of the child as the cause of family problems” and “Perception of the child as burden” subscores. Mothers of more severely disabled preschoolers accurately appraised the greater severity of handicap compared with mothers of mildly disabled children. The greater the proportion of the child's life that support was provided, the lower the QRS-F pessimism scores. Low SES mothers who were single seemed to profit especially from sustained professional supports from the time of the baby's birth.

Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Training Conference of the National Head Start Association, Washington, DC, April, 1995.