The influence of psychosocial factors on the health of parents caring for children with disabilities
thesisposted on 2022-10-14, 08:04 authored by Joanne Cantwell
The focus of this thesis was to identify psychosocial factors associated with the variance in health outcomes for parents of children with disabilities. The approach taken was in line with a recent paradigm shift from identifying factors predictive of psychological distress to one of exploring factors that buffer parents from the stress of caring and thus serve a protective function for parental health. A role identity framework was identified as a promising method of exploring the underlying pathways to the maintenance of protective factors. Resources associated with the successful evaluation of role identities are mastery and self-esteem, thus in the first study and the two empirical papers that emerged from this study, the part that these resources play in health outcomes for parents was established. The results suggest that higher levels of these resources are beneficial for psychological and physical health but the relationships between these factors and other established risk and protective factors, i.e. stress and social support, are complex and nuanced. The data reported in the third paper, which emerged from the longitudinal study, highlight the constancy of poorer parental psychological well-being over time. The benefit of roles such as employment in maintaining better psychological well-being was supported. The fourth paper explored the associations between role identity processes and parental psychological well-being. The results suggest that multiple roles, role balance and roles outside of the caring role were associated with less depressive symptomology. Of the role identity processes role balance predicted the greatest variance in depressive symptomology however perception of performance in roles outside of caring, irrespective of the type of role, predicated less depressive symptomology. These findings suggest that for parents of children with disabilities managing a smaller number of identities but having one outside the parenting role which provides a method of self-evaluation is important to psychological well-being.