Maternal perceptions of child behavior: handicapped versus nonhandicapped

This study compares the ratings of child behavior in short stories by mothers of children with handicapping conditions versus those whose children had no handicapping conditions. Each of the mothers rated 12 short stories or vignettes and indicated their self-perceived level of stress. The results showed that the mothers of children with handicapping conditions expressed significantly greater stress levels and rated inappropriate child behavior in a more tolerant fashion than the mothers of children without handicapping conditions. This information may be of value to the dentist who treats patients with handicapping conditions, and it provides a greater understanding of the mothers’ concerns and daily life stresses.

STUDIES ON THE RELATIONSHIP between parental functioning and perception to child deviance that is manifested primarily within some behavioral mode have appeared in the psychological literature. A more recent report by Middlebrook and Forehand studied nonclinic and clinic (psycho- logical) status mothers. They focused on the relationship of stressful situations as presented in vignettes or ultra short stories to maternal perceptions of three types of child behavior: appropriate, neutral, and inappropriate. Their findings sup- ported the notion t at mothers of children with emotional problems tend to be more negativistic and experience more stressful life events.

By analogy, populations of parents (for example, parents of children with handicapping conditions versus those of children without handicapping conditions) may respond differently to child behavior as a consequence of their specific family setting. This study compares the ratings of child behavior as depicted in vignettes by mothers of children who have mentally or physically handicapping conditions to those whose children have no handicapping conditions. In addition, each mother’s self reported anxiety was measured during their child’s dental appointment.