Date of Award:

1999

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Lori A. Roggman

Abstract

The stress parents feel affects how they fulfill their roles as parents and their own psychological well-being. Social support has been shown to help parents deal with the demands of their parenting roles while maintaining psychological health. Compared to married parents, divorced mothers are most at risk for parenting stress and negative feelings of well-being. Low-income can add further to the levels of stress in parenting and increase the need for sources of social support.

This study compared low-income divorced mothers to low-income married mothers. It explored mothers' perceptions of the stresses of parenting and feelings of wellbeing in relation to their use of social support resources. Results indicated that divorced mothers who used informal sources of social support (i.e., relatives or fiiends) were more likely to feel in control of their lives and have a more positive perception of their preschool child. On the other hand, married mothers who used formal sources of social support (i.e., agencies or professionals) felt more positive about interactions with their children and felt less distress in their parenting roles.

This study also looked at social support as a moderating variable interacting with marital status to affect feelings of well-being and parenting stress. Social support as a moderating variable was not supported for this sample. It was concluded that researchers must be careful in selecting an instrument used to measure the concept of social support. To assist in clarification of the effects of social support on stress and psychological well-being. measures should encompass not only how often social support is used and the sources of support but also the types and quality of the support received.

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