Project Title

“I Forgive Myself and God:” Coping and Distress Among Parents of Children with Disabilities

Authors' Affiliations

Morgan K. Treaster, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Stephanie Penpek, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Jon R. Webb, Community, Family, and Addiction Sciences, College of Human Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. Loren Toussaint, Department of Psychology, Luther College, Decorah, IA. Jameson K. Hirsch, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN.

Location

Ballroom

Start Date

4-12-2019 9:00 AM

End Date

4-12-2019 2:30 PM

Poster Number

53

Faculty Sponsor’s Department

Psychology

Name of Project's Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jameson Hirsch

Type

Poster: Competitive

Classification of First Author

Graduate Student-Master’s

Project's Category

Psychology

Abstract Text

Approximately 22% of households in the U.S. have at least one child living with a disability. Due, in part, to being overwhelmed by caregiving challenges, parents may report experiencing a deep and unbearable psychological pain (i.e., psychache), characterized by despair, anguish, and hopelessness. Yet, risk for distress may be lessened by seeking and accepting social support (e.g., parenting advice). Spiritual coping (e.g., prayer) may also be beneficial, encouraging meaning-making and better psychological adjustment. Availability of social and religious support may also indirectly affect distress by encouraging self-forgiveness. For example, social feedback and support could minimize self-blame for a child’s diagnosis or self-criticism for perceived parental shortcomings. Through spiritual connections, forgiveness of God may manifest, promoting perception of the child as a “blessing” or opportunity for growth, rather than a punishment (e.g., “why me?”). As such, we examined the potential mediating effect of forgiveness in the association of coping styles and psychache among parents of children with disabilities.

At the bivariate level, we hypothesized that coping styles (i.e., social and spiritual support) and types of forgiveness (i.e., of God and self) would be positively related, and that all would be negatively related to psychache. At the multivariate level, we hypothesized that types of forgiveness (included in same model) would mediate the associations of coping styles and psychache, such that higher levels of seeking social or spiritual support would be associated with greater forgiveness of the self and God and, in turn, less psychache.

Parents raising children with physical or developmental disabilities (n=253) were recruited from support groups and organizations, and social media websites. Our sample was predominantly mothers (n=203; 80.2%), White (n=186; 73.5%), and married (n=172; 68%). Participants completed self-report measures including: Family Crisis Oriented Personal Scales, Fetzer Multidimensional Measurement of Religiousness/Spirituality, a one-item measure of forgiveness of God, and the Psychache Scale. Bivariate correlations and mediation analyses, per Hayes (2013), were conducted, covarying age, race, and type of guardian (e.g., mother or father).

At the bivariate level, hypotheses were supported; all variables were significantly related to one another in the hypothesized directions (p < .05). Multivariate hypotheses were also supported; there was a significant total effect between seeking social support and psychache (t=-3.13, p=.002; 95% CI[-.533, -.121]) and a nonsignificant direct effect (t=-1.35, p=.18; 95% CI[-.302, .057]) when types of forgiveness were added to the model, indicating mediation. Additionally, there was a significant total effect for the association of spiritual coping and psychache (t=-3.24, p=.002; 95% CI[-.813, -.197]), and the direct effect fell out of significance when forgiveness was accounted for (t=-1.13, p=.26; 95% CI[-.448, .121]), indicating mediation.

In sum, coping through pursuit of both social and spiritual support was associated with greater self-forgiveness and forgiveness of God and, in turn, to lower risk for psychache. Therapeutic interventions may include community support groups (e.g., health information from providers; connect to other families) or collaborations between psychologists and spiritual leaders. Existential therapy and self-forgiveness activities (e.g., loving-kindness meditation) may also be beneficial for alleviating distress among parents raising children with disabilities.

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Apr 12th, 9:00 AM Apr 12th, 2:30 PM

“I Forgive Myself and God:” Coping and Distress Among Parents of Children with Disabilities

Ballroom

Approximately 22% of households in the U.S. have at least one child living with a disability. Due, in part, to being overwhelmed by caregiving challenges, parents may report experiencing a deep and unbearable psychological pain (i.e., psychache), characterized by despair, anguish, and hopelessness. Yet, risk for distress may be lessened by seeking and accepting social support (e.g., parenting advice). Spiritual coping (e.g., prayer) may also be beneficial, encouraging meaning-making and better psychological adjustment. Availability of social and religious support may also indirectly affect distress by encouraging self-forgiveness. For example, social feedback and support could minimize self-blame for a child’s diagnosis or self-criticism for perceived parental shortcomings. Through spiritual connections, forgiveness of God may manifest, promoting perception of the child as a “blessing” or opportunity for growth, rather than a punishment (e.g., “why me?”). As such, we examined the potential mediating effect of forgiveness in the association of coping styles and psychache among parents of children with disabilities.

At the bivariate level, we hypothesized that coping styles (i.e., social and spiritual support) and types of forgiveness (i.e., of God and self) would be positively related, and that all would be negatively related to psychache. At the multivariate level, we hypothesized that types of forgiveness (included in same model) would mediate the associations of coping styles and psychache, such that higher levels of seeking social or spiritual support would be associated with greater forgiveness of the self and God and, in turn, less psychache.

Parents raising children with physical or developmental disabilities (n=253) were recruited from support groups and organizations, and social media websites. Our sample was predominantly mothers (n=203; 80.2%), White (n=186; 73.5%), and married (n=172; 68%). Participants completed self-report measures including: Family Crisis Oriented Personal Scales, Fetzer Multidimensional Measurement of Religiousness/Spirituality, a one-item measure of forgiveness of God, and the Psychache Scale. Bivariate correlations and mediation analyses, per Hayes (2013), were conducted, covarying age, race, and type of guardian (e.g., mother or father).

At the bivariate level, hypotheses were supported; all variables were significantly related to one another in the hypothesized directions (p < .05). Multivariate hypotheses were also supported; there was a significant total effect between seeking social support and psychache (t=-3.13, p=.002; 95% CI[-.533, -.121]) and a nonsignificant direct effect (t=-1.35, p=.18; 95% CI[-.302, .057]) when types of forgiveness were added to the model, indicating mediation. Additionally, there was a significant total effect for the association of spiritual coping and psychache (t=-3.24, p=.002; 95% CI[-.813, -.197]), and the direct effect fell out of significance when forgiveness was accounted for (t=-1.13, p=.26; 95% CI[-.448, .121]), indicating mediation.

In sum, coping through pursuit of both social and spiritual support was associated with greater self-forgiveness and forgiveness of God and, in turn, to lower risk for psychache. Therapeutic interventions may include community support groups (e.g., health information from providers; connect to other families) or collaborations between psychologists and spiritual leaders. Existential therapy and self-forgiveness activities (e.g., loving-kindness meditation) may also be beneficial for alleviating distress among parents raising children with disabilities.