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Resilient parenting of children at developmental risk


Previous research has provided consistent evidence that positive parenting is a strong protective factor for children at risk, yet little is known about what factors lead to positive parenting. Parenting dimensions are almost always predictor variables and rarely outcomes, so that we know little about how it is that parents facing formidable challenges are still able to function reasonably well. Given the great benefits of positive parenting to child development under normal circumstances, and the even greater benefits in the face of risk, it is important to understand why some parents manage to be effective in their interactions with their child despite facing formidable challenges (i.e. resilient parenting). The purpose of this investigation was to examine factors that promote positive parenting in the presence of child and economic risk during various developmental periods. The first study examined resilient parenting in early childhood (age 3-5), and the second study replicated the model to assess risk and protective factors for positive parenting in middle childhood (age 5-8). The third study assessed resilient parenting in adolescence (age 13-15) and examined additional risk and protective factors pertaining to this particular developmental period, utilizing additional measures and both quantitative and qualitative methods. The third study also examined an additional sample of youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Results from the first two studies indicated that parenting is less positive given child and economic risk factors, but also that mother attributes (e.g., optimism) can buffer this risk-poorer parenting relationship in early and middle childhood. Results from the third study suggested that parenting is less influenced by child and economic risk factors in adolescence. Comparison of mothers with and without children with developmental disabilities revealed similar levels of positive parenting, but factors that reportedly promoted positive parenting differed between the groups, particularly in the domain of social support. A focus on resilient parenting directs attention toward promoting positive parent cognitions and providing resources to build parenting strengths, which fits well with the current interest in more positive approaches to family support.

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