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Authoritative parenting and parental stress in parents of pre-school and older children with developmental disabilities

Woolfson, L.H. and Grant, E. (2006) Authoritative parenting and parental stress in parents of pre-school and older children with developmental disabilities. Child: Care, Health and Development, 32 (2). pp. 177-184. ISSN 0305-1862

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Background Rearing a child with a developmental disability is associated with increased parental stress. Theories of stress and adjustment and bi-directional theories of child development suggest that parenting could influence these negative outcomes. Methods Relationships between parenting approaches and stress in parents of children with developmental disabilities (DD) (N = 53) were examined across two age groups, 3-5 years and 9-11 years and compared with a contrast group of typically developing children (TD) (N = 60). Measures used were the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form and Rickel and Biasatti's modification of Block's Child Rearing Practices Report, classified into Baumrind's parenting styles using Reitman and Gross's method. Results Parents in the older DD group used Authoritative parenting less than parents in the younger DD group, while the opposite developmental pattern was seen in the TD group. Multivariate analysis of variance showed a significant group × parenting style interaction for Parental Distress, Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction and Difficult Child. Stress measures were higher for the DD group and seemed to be associated with Authoritative parenting approaches, an effect that was not observed in the TD group. Conclusions Findings suggest that the well-established effect of group on stress may be moderated by parenting style. Authoritative parenting may be highly stressful for parents of children with DD to implement, resulting in a decrease in its use across the two age groups.