The Impact of Parenting Stress on Parenting Styles
In the current chapter, the conceptual definitions, a review of the literature, and the theoretical framework are presented. The conceptual definitions focus on the variables used in the study, including parental stress, financial stress, and parenting styles. The review of the literature focuses on what current studies report regarding how parental and financial stresses affect the styles of parenting. The conceptual framework that guided the research draws upon the Afrocentric Perspective, John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, and Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation.
The major variables for the current study included parental stress, financial stress, and parenting styles, which are discussed in the subsections that follow.
Parental stress. Stress denotes an unavoidable, normal experience that a person feels when he or she is unsure regarding the demands in the environment. In the family environment, stress denotes to the pressure that results in alteration of family dynamics. According to Dabrowska and Pisula (2010), family stress is an outcome of the interaction of three factors, including the attribute of the stressor event, the resources available to the family, and the meaning the family assigns to the stressor event. Three types of stressor events exist, which include normative, non-normative, and chronic stressors. Normative stressors refer to either typical daily life events or long-term development transitions associated with the life course of the family (Aunola & Nurmi, 2005). Normative stressors are positive and play an important role in the healthy development of the family. Non-normative stress events refer to dramatic, sudden, and unpredictable occurrences that can significantly interfere with the lives of children and parents, such as sudden death of a family member. Non-normative stressors are tolerable. Chronic stress events refer to atypical occurrences that last for longer durations and may have debilitating impacts on children and parents. It is essential to note that the definition of stress is not only limited to a person’s experience, but also by his/her interpersonal, physiological, cognitive, and emotional reactions to the stress experience (Aunola & Nurmi, 2005). Overall, stress refers to a negative emotional experience that follows predetermined behavioral, cognitive, physiological, and biochemical changes that seek to change the stressor or accommodate its impacts. Whereas stress is often perceived as a negative emotional experience, small levels of stress have been linked to longevity (Lee, Daniels, & Kissinger, 2006). Nevertheless, high stress levels can result in mental, emotional, and physical health problems, such as drug abuse, relationship problems, and headaches among others.
Despite the fact that the terms “parenting stress” and “parental stress” are usually considered interchangeable, it is imperative to distinguish them. In this respect, parenting stress refers to the stress that one experiences due to the demands associated with being a parent. Consequently, parenting stress is often experiences as a negative feelings towards child(ren), as well as the self (Lee, Daniels, & Kissinger, 2006). It should be noted that such negative feelings are directly linked to the demands posed by parenthood. Some of the parenting stress sources include demands related to satisfying the needs of a child, such as attention, comfort and food, and the social pressure that comes with investing in well-being and growth of the child in the long-term (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010). On the other hand, parental stress refers to the stress that is not attributable to raising a child, but due to the parent’s daily life, responsibilities, and environmental situations. In other words, the scope of parental stress is relatively bigger when compared to that of parenting stress.
Factors such as the economic challenges and lack of social support are stressors for parents, as well as non-parents. However, the stressors for parents extend to include parenting responsibilities and child characteristics (Lee, Daniels, & Kissinger, 2006). Parental stressors have an impact on the overall well-being and mental health of parents. In addition to individual aspects, such as physical health, gender and age, contextual and environmental variables, including ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, and geographic location, have an effect on the stress levels of parents, and ultimately their mental health (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010). Moreover, social variables, such as housing instability and neighborhood violence can increase parental stress.
Financial stress. There is no doubt that the quality of family life depends significantly on the availability and accessibility of economic resources for the family. Economic resources play a crucial role in meeting the basic needs. Therefore, abundance of resources simply means that the basic needs are met with ease and surplus resources allocated to satisfy the desired luxuries and comforts (Aunola & Nurmi, 2005). However, majority of families have limited resources. As a result, they have to manage them effectively in order for their desires and needs to be satisfied. In the family context, resources can lead to stress when disagreement exist regarding their use. In addition, the unavailability of resources is also a source of stress. Resources are often measured using the family income, which, in turn, determines the family’s economic status (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010). Factors that are likely to threaten family income, including disability, retirement, divorce, and unemployment, can cause economic stress. Economic stress refers to the tension, pressure, and hardship attributed to changes in the financial affairs of the family or individuals. Financial stress can be attributed to numerous factors, such as being unable to meet financial responsibilities, uncertainty regarding the sources of income, employment instability, and inadequate earnings relative to the needs and desires (Milevsky, Schlechter, Netter, & Keehn, 2007). Moreover, financial stress can be linked to factors beyond the control of the individual. Such factors may include the situation of the general economy in terms of poverty rates, unemployment, and recession.
Parenting styles. Parenting styles refer to the child-rearing strategies used by parents. The style of parenting depends on the parenting behaviors, which denote the specific behaviors exhibited by parents with respect to child-rearing. The parenting style has a significant impact on the development of the child. Norizan and Shamsuddin (2010) outlined the four crucial dimensions related to parenting styles, which include expectations regarding control and maturity, communication styles, nurturance and warmth, and disciplinary approaches. Drawing upon such dimensions, four parenting styles exist, which include authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved parenting (Aunola & Nurmi, 2005).
Authoritarian parenting is characterized by parents establishing strict rules to be followed by children. When children fail to follow the established rules, they are punished. As Park and Walton-Moss (2012) explains, authoritarian parents emphasize obedience and status. As a result, they expect children to adhere to their orders without any explanations. Essentially, authoritarian parents tend to be demanding, restrictive, and rely heavily on punishment to influence the behavior of their children. Some of the common forms of punishment preferred by authoritarian parents include shouting and corporate punishment (Norizan & Shamsuddin, 2010). The ultimate objective of authoritarian parenting is to ensure survival and thriving of the child in a challenging world. Studies show that authoritarian parenting instils obedience and proficiency in children. However, it results in low self-esteem, social competence and happiness among them. Authoritarian parenting also increases the risk of escapist behaviors among children, such as suicide and drug abuse (Park & Walton-Moss, 2012).
Authoritative parenting shares similar characteristics as authoritarian parenting in the sense that parents outline the guidelines and rules to be followed by children. Nevertheless, the current parenting approach is more democratic. Therefore, authoritative parents tend to be responsive and listen to concerns and feedback raised by children. In the event that children do not meet the expectations of their parents, authoritative parents do not resort to punishment; instead, they nurture and forgive (Pong, Hao, & Gardner, 2005). Authoritarian parents monitor and influence the conduct of their children. Moreover, such parents are assertive, although they are neither restrictive nor intrusive. The disciplinary strategies adopted by such parents are supportive and not punitive. They emphasize on their children being socially responsible, cooperative, and able to exercise self-regulation. They also expect their children to be autonomous, independent, and exhibit age-appropriate behavior and independence. Studies have shown that authoritative parenting results in children who are successful, capable, and happy.
Permissive parenting, also known as indulgent parenting, is characterized by parents having few demands and expectations from their children. Permissive parents seldom discipline children, since they have low expectations regarding self-control and maturity. Permissive parenting tends to be more lenient, avoids confronting the children, does not require children to exhibit age-appropriate behavior, and permits significant self-regulation. Su and Hynie (2011) point out that permissive parents play the role of a friend more than the role of a parent. Moreover, lenient parents are receptive to the needs and wants of their children. Studies have revealed that permissive parenting results in children who are more impulsive and likely to engage in misconduct during adolescence. Moreover, such children are not capable of controlling their behavior and tend to expect that things will be done in accordance to their desires (Su & Hynie, 2011). However, such children exhibit high levels of emotional security, independence, and readiness to learn. They also mature faster and are independent.
Uninvolved parenting, also known as neglectful parenting, is typified by few demands, lack of communication, and low parental responsiveness. Although such parents meet the basic needs of their children, they tend to be detached from their lives. Worst case scenario involves the parents rejecting and neglecting children’s needs. Such hands-off approach to parenting is also characterized by disregarding the opinions and emotions of the child, being emotionally unsupportive (Milevsky, Schlechter, Netter, & Keehn, 2007). Neglectful parenting affects children in the sense that they have lower competence, self-esteem, and self-control when compared to their peers.
The predictors of parental styles have been vastly explored in the literature. In particular, the relationship between parental stress and parental styles has been explored. Moreover, the literature provides the information regarding the impact of stress on parenting. Studies have shown that parents’ struggles may trigger emotional responses in the family capable of affecting the development of children. Specifically, Dabrowska and Pisula (2010) found that parents who are stressed tend to be less nurturing and affectionate. They are also extremely irritable, harsh, and lack consistency when handling children. Studies have also shown that children of parents who have been unemployed for longer periods of time have a higher probability of being hospitalized due to neglect and abuse. Su and Hynie (2011) reported that emotional distress in parents may affect the child in ways that are less obvious, albeit damaging. For instance, in the course of infancy, which is a crucial stage for the development of the brain, studies have shown that depression among mothers reduces electrical activity in brain areas linked to positive emotion, as well as self-regulation. In addition, such initial impacts may be lasting. Empirical evidence outlines that maternal depression in the course of infancy is likely to result in behavioral issues among children, even after the end of depression (Pong, Hao, & Gardner, 2005). Moreover, during adolescence, financial troubles among parents increase the risk of children developing depression and anxiety, and problems with academics and friends.
Besides the effect associated with economic stress on parents’ quality, financial stress lowers the ability of parents to make significant investments in the upbringing of their child with respect to money and time. For instance, studies have shown that mothers with lower incomes are unlikely to spend time helping their children reading, teaching them, and taking them out to museums, etc. Moreover, when parents become jobless, children are more likely to stagnate in academic performance when compared to the time before the parent lost his or her job (Lee, Daniels, & Kissinger, 2006).
Financial stress has an impact on the well-being and mental health of people. For instance, some of the common reactions to financial stress include poor physical health, anxiety, depression, hostility, and anger. Moreover, financial stress lowers the quality of relationships between parents and children and marital relationships. Financial stress negatively affects such relationships and functioning by reducing family cohesion and satisfaction. Financial stress among parents also affects the quality of parenting due to the reduced parental well-being. It stems from the fact that financial stress has an impact on parent-child interactions, child-rearing practices, and parenting behaviors (Lee, Daniels, & Kissinger, 2006). Specifically, financial stress lowers the level of affective support, increases arbitrary and inconsistent discipline, and lowers parental supportiveness. Moreover, financial stress reduces social support and material warmth provided by parents. Financial stress has also been linked to particular child outcomes in the long- and short-term due to limited opportunities and resources. For instance, studies have linked higher levels of anti-social behavior, impulsiveness and depression, and lower self-esteem in children with financial stress (Milevsky, Schlechter, Netter, & Keehn, 2007). Paternal financial stress is linked to aggression and depression, whereas maternal financial stress is linked to loneliness and depression.
The theoretical framework for the current study draws upon three theories, including the Afrocentric Perspective, John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, and Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation. The Afrocentric perspective acknowledges that Africans do not exist in their own historical and cultural terms, but instead exist in European teams. Such perspective acknowledges the dislocation of Africans and their difficulties in orienting themselves in a constructive and positive way. The suggested solution to such problem, according to the Afrocentric Perspective, is relocation. The underlying presumption is that Africans are only capable of adopting behaviors and attitudes that are connected to their historical and cultural reality. In terms of parenting, the Afrocentric Perspective acknowledges that African parents experience unique problems, which are usually misunderstood, such as the impact of race and socio-economic status on motherhood (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010). Such unique challenge can affect parenting styles of African parents.
The Attachment Theory provides a description of the dynamics involving lasting interpersonal relationships between people. A crucial aspect of the attachment theory is that an infant requires establishing a relationship with a minimum of one caregiver in order for the child to be successful in relation to his or her emotional and social development. Mothers, fathers or any other person can become primary attachment figures if they offer sufficient child care level, as well as social interaction (Park & Walton-Moss, 2012). The lack of availability and accessibility of the attachment figure or the unresponsiveness of such attachment figure leads to separation distress. In such way, parental stress results in the unavailability, unresponsiveness, and inaccessibility of the attachment figure, which leads to the child developing a sense of depression, as well as isolation, since they do not have access to the empathetic caregiver.
Such situation denotes the four attachment styles, including secure, anxious avoidant, insecure, anxious-ambivalent, insecure, and disorganized. Secure attachment is characterized by the child exploring and playing freely with the present caregiver. The anxious-avoidant insecure child is characterized by ignoring or avoiding the caregiver, which entails displaying little emotion towards him or her (Park & Walton-Moss, 2012). The anxious-ambivalent insecure child is typified by distress and resentment in the child. In such respect, parental stress influences the attachment style that the child develops.
From the review of the literature, it is evident that parental stress has an impact on parenting behaviors. Most of the studies in the literature have explored the impact of parental stress by observing the outcomes in children. There is little literature focusing on studying the impact of parental stress from the perspective of the parents. The current study will address such identified gap that exists in the literature.
Present chapter discusses the activities undertaken to achieve the objectives of the study. Hence, the research question and hypotheses, the research design, sampling methods, data collection methods, and data analysis methods are presented.
Review of Research Questions and Hypothesis
The overarching research question for the current study is:
- What is the impact of parental stress on parenting styles?
The following are the sub-questions that helped answer the overarching research question:
- RQ1: Is there a statistically significant correlation between parental stress and parenting styles?
- RQ2: Is there a statistically significant correlation between financial stress and parenting styles?
The hypotheses for the study are listed below:
- H1a: A statistically significant correlation exists between parental stress and parenting styles.
- H10: A statistically significant correlation does not exist between parental stress and parenting styles.
- H2a: A statistically significant correlation exists between financial stress and parenting styles.
- H20: A statistically significant correlation does not exist between financial stress and parenting styles.
In present study, a quantitative research design was used. Quantitative studies focus on exploring relationships between variables using statistical techniques. The aim of quantitative research is to devise and employ hypotheses regarding the phenomenon. It is contrasted with qualitative research, which strives to understand the fundamental motivations, opinions, and reasons regarding the phenomena. The basis for using a quantitative research stems from the descriptive aspect of the study. Moreover, the need to generalize the findings of the study to a broader population also underpinned the adoption of the quantitative approach in addressing the study objective (Bryman, 2012). It is also imperative to note that the research problem is clearly structured and defined, which warrants the adoption of closed-ended approaches, hence, the quantitative approach. The specific quantitative design used in the current study is the correlational design, which is used in determining whether a correlation exists between two variables (Aunola & Nurmi, 2005). A correlational study seeks to recognize the patterns and trend that emerge in the data, which is the correlation between parental stress and parenting styles.
Participants of the study were selected using random sampling, which is a form of a probabilistic sampling characterized by the equal chance of participating in the research for each member of the study population. The random sampling approach was suited for the study, since it facilitates the generalization of the study findings. As a result, its probabilistic nature guarantees the representation of the sample to the study population. It is crucial in making valid inferences from the results of the study (Bryman, 2012). Since the study sought to make conclusions regarding the population using the findings obtained from the sample, random sampling was the best suitable approach for achieving such objective. The sample size for the study comprised of 30 female parents, which has a relatively small estimated margin of error (14.1 percent).
Data Collection Methods
Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect data from the participants. A questionnaire refers to a self-contained and self-administered instrument for asking questions, as well as soliciting responses from participants concerning a phenomenon of interest. The questionnaire was used in the current study due to time limitations for conducting the research. Consequently, it facilitated the collection of vast amounts of data within a short timeframe. Questionnaires resulted in standardized data collection, which is a core requirement for generalizing findings, as is the case of the given research. The questionnaire captured various aspects, including:
- Demographic characteristics of participants, such as age, income, and number of children.
- Estimating the parenting stress using the parental stress scale (PSS), which is a self-report scale containing 18 items denoting the positive themes associated with parenthood. They include personal development, self-enrichment, and emotional benefits, as well as negative aspects associated with parenthood, such as restrictions, opportunity costs, and demands placed on resources (Park & Walton-Moss, 2012). The items are rated on a five-point scale. The reliability of such instrument is discussed in Chapter 4.
- Determining the financial stress using the financial stress scale, which contains nine items exploring the sources of spending for the household, as well as the sufficiency of finances for paying bills (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010). The items are presented on a five-point scale that ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The reliability and validity of the scale is discussed in Chapter 4.
- Investigating the parental styles using the parenting styles dimensional questionnaire (PSDQ), which contains 62 items used for understanding the parenting styles (Park & Walton-Moss, 2012). The reliability and validity of such scale is discussed in Chapter 4.
Data Analysis Methods
Data analysis was performed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Data regarding the participants’ characteristics were presented using descriptive statistics (mean and standard deviation). Inferential statistics was used in describing the relationship between the variables of interest. Specifically, Pearson’s Correlation was used in displaying the direction of linearity existing between the variables in the research questions (Bryman, 2012). Further, the data was sent to the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) for analysis. Graphics and tabulations are used in presenting the findings of the current study.
Present quantitative research was administered using the correlational design. Thirty female participants were selected randomly, after which self-administered questionnaires were used to gather data. The relationship between parental stress and financial stress, and parenting style was investigated using Pearson’s correlation.