Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities and their Parents: A Systems Theory Approach to Functioning and Well-being
This dissertation involved secondary analysis of data from the Early Intervention Collaborative Study (EICS), a longitudinal study of children with developmental disabilities (DD) and their families (Hauser-Cram, Warfield, Shonkoff, & Krauss, 2001). The sample for this dissertation was comprised of 133 adolescents with DD and their parents. When the target adolescent was ages 15 and 18, mothers and fathers completed measures assessing their own functioning and that of their child, as well as aspects of the home and family environment. Regression analyses were utilized to examine factors that relate to and predict functioning and well-being of adolescents with DD and that of their parents. The following research questions were addressed: (1) What parental and child factors are related to the well-being of parents of adolescents with DD? (2) How is partner satisfaction related to the parent-child relationship and family cohesion for parents of adolescents with DD? (3) How are work characteristics related to parental satisfaction with the parent-child relationship and with parental well-being? (4) What factors predict and relate to adolescent autonomy in teens with DD? Results indicated that parenting efficacy predicted parental well-being and various types of parenting stress above and beyond adolescent behavior problems. Counter to hypotheses, parent social support and adolescent autonomy did not relate to parental well-being. Additionally, the total number of adolescent behavior problems was related to greater well-being among mothers but not fathers, though externalizing behavior problems in particular related to greater total parenting stress for fathers only. Dyadic adjustment was only related to greater satisfaction with family cohesion for fathers, as was difficulty of care. For both mothers and fathers, work flexibility and job satisfaction contributed to greater parental well-being above and beyond satisfaction with the parent-child relationship. Finally, social acceptance predicted later adolescent autonomy, and adolescent self-efficacy related to autonomy above and beyond previous social acceptance. Collectively, the findings demonstrated the influence of adolescent functioning in relation to parents’ well-being, the importance of parenting efficacy for parents and peer support and self-efficacy for adolescents with disabilities, and the potential benefits of employment for this parenting group. Implications and areas for future study are discussed.