Young Unmarried Mothers’ Relationships and Their Effects on Parental Self-Efficacy Kara Newby, MS1, Ellen Abell, PhD2, Francesca Adler-Baeder, PhD2 1The Ohio State University, 2Auburn University Abstract Results Discussion and Limitations The nature and quality of the residential and parenting supports experienced by a young, unwed mother can vary considerably. Analyses of data from 40 such mothers, collected through quantitative and qualitative methods, examines whether the generational structure and dyadic quality of their co-residential and co-parenting situations affect their parental self-efficacy. Findings indicate that the generational structure of a mother's co-parenting and co-residential relationships was consequential for her parental self-efficacy, but that the quality of the co-parenting relationship was a key aspect of her self-efficacy, independent of its generational structure.
Findings indicate that the generational structure of a mother's co-parenting and co-residential relationships were consequential for her parental self-efficacy, but that the quality of the co-parenting relationship was a key aspect of her self-efficacy, independent of its generational structure. A mother's evaluation of the symmetry in her primary co-parenting relationship predicted her parenting self-efficacy, and qualitative data reinforced these findings.
Mothers spoke of the tension between trying to live in a house where they were both a daughter to a mother as well as a mother--where the power structure was pre-determined. For mothers lower in self-efficacy, conflict centered on issues of authority and autonomy, and mothers perceived these issues as demeaning their role as a parent, affecting the mother's confidence in her parenting role.
However, regardless of who the co-parenting partner is, when a mother perceives there to be more consensus and cohesion, she may feel as though she is being validated in her parenting role by co-parenting partner, and she may then be more likely to feel confident in this role.
The results of this study have implications for future educational or intervention programs:
First, parenting programs cannot assume that there is one co-parent with the mother, such as a husband. Co-parenting situations are often fluid. Parenting programs should emphasize the importance of the co-parent, while also empowering the mother to maintain her own autonomy as a new mother. There are clear benefits to focusing on building healthy co-parenting relationships, regardless of whether they are a traditional or not.
Second, intergenerational co-residence is often a necessary arrangement for getting basic parenting needs met. Current findings suggest that quality rather than structure is important in co-parenting relationships. Parenting education can focus on relationship education and dyadic skills training for both the mother and her support figures, such as conflict management and communication, while also conveying the importance for mentoring and supporting mothers.
Limitations It is important to note that these findings cannot show directionality of effects. It is not clear whether low self-efficacy drives a less cohesive relationship or if a less cohesive relationship actually affects the mothers’ judgments about herself as a mother. It may be that a less efficacious mother stays away from an intragenerational relationship if she does not feel confident in other relationship areas as well, or that a less efficacious mother elicits more “taking-over behaviors" from her co-parenting partner. Further studies will be needed to address these questions as the body of research linking parental self-efficacy and effective parenting continues to grow (Jones & Prinz, 2005). The contribution of the present study, however, is in highlighting how the generational structure and interactional quality of young mothers' interpersonal contexts play a role in the formation and development of their sense of themselves as efficacious parents. Parental Self-Efficacy and Co-residential and Co-parenting Status
Neither co-residential nor co-parenting status at the time of birth explained significant variance in current parental self-efficacy, nor did current co-residential status.
In contrast, parental self-efficacy scores were significantly different for mothers by co-parenting situation at the time of the interview, F (2, 36) = 6.01, p = .006. Post hoc analyses showed that mothers who identified intergenerational co-parenting arrangements were more likely to have significantly lower parental self-efficacy scores.
Because of the wide variability among mothers in the number of years since first birth (range = 2 months to17 years), ANCOVAs were conducted using time since first birth as a covariate (see Table 1). The addition of the covariate resulted in a significant F value for the relationship between parental self-efficacy and both co-residential and co-parenting status at first birth.
Mothers who, at first birth, lived in an intergenerational arrangement reported higher current parental self-efficacy, F (2, 29) = 3.71, p = .037. Interestingly, mothers who identified having a co-parenting partner of the same generation at first birth also reported higher current parental self-efficacy, F (2, 30) = 3.51, p = .043. In these analyses, the covariate itself was significant, suggesting that the number of years away from having given birth as an adolescent or a young unmarried woman contributed significantly to the variance in explaining the relations between initial co-parenting or co-residential statuses and current parenting self-efficacy.
Self-Efficacy and Dyadic Symmetry
Scores reflecting the dyadic symmetry of the co-parenting relationships ranged from 14 to 38 and were positively associated with parental self-efficacy and family income. A regression model examining whether symmetry in the current co-parenting relationship significantly contributed to parental self-efficacy was fit, controlling for the effects of years since first birth.
Over and above the significant effect of years since first birth (β = .37, p < .05), dyadic symmetry significantly contributed to the variance in parental self-efficacy (β = .37, p < .05).
A second regression model examined whether these results would obtain subsequent to the addition of co-parenting status (which was entered as a dummy variable). Dyadic symmetry continued to contribute significantly to parental self-efficacy independent of the effects of the structure of the co-parenting relationship. Furthermore, this model accounted for 42% of the variance in predicting parental self-efficacy.
Key findings indicate that when mothers were not constrained to identify one co-parenting partner, they spoke of their co-parenting situations such that it was clear that there could be support from a variety of sources, and that this support was often fluid.
Mothers spoke mainly about two general types of support: instrumental (i.e. child care, transportation, financial) and emotional support. Eighteen (or 44 %) of the mothers spoke during the interview of some kind of conflict with their co-parent or with different support figures. Some spoke of isolated while others spoke of a bitterness or conflict that was still resonating. Several of the mothers spoke about how it was especially hard to have authority over their child while they might have disagreements with their own parents, particularly if they are living with their parents (the child’s grandparents).
Differences were also discerned in the way that high and low self-efficacy mothers spoke about conflict. Mothers with higher self-efficacy confirmed their struggles with co-parents but seemed able to step back and take a broader perspective on the conflict.
Finally, there was a large difference between the high and low self-efficacy mothers in terms of showing and teaching. None of the mothers lower in self-efficacy had any coded statements about their co-parents or support figures showing or teaching them how to parent. In contrast, a majority of the mothers who were higher in self-efficacy spoke of the way that their co-parent showed them how to parent.
Background and Purpose
Short term grandmother support is associated with the mother finishing school and with increased cognitive stimulation for the child (Cooley & Unger, 1991).
Prolonged grandmother presence is associated with lower maternal responsiveness toward the child, poorer individuation for the mother in her relationship with the grandmother, and poorer parenting quality (Cooley & Unger, 1991; Wakschlag, et al, 1996).
Self-efficacy beliefs represent a potent variable for explaining variation in parenting effectiveness (Coleman & Karraker, 1997).
Parental self-efficacy is linked with parental competence, contributes both directly and indirectly through parental behavior to child adjustment, and may be an indicator of risk for parental competence and child functioning (Jones & Prinz, 2005).
Thus, questions arise about the nature and quality of the co-parenting environments in which adolescent mothers raise their children. How are parenting roles and expectations for the mother negotiated and supported in the co-parenting relationship and what are the consequences of these co-parenting interactions for the young mother’s developing sense of herself as a parent? The purpose of this study was to examine parenting self-efficacy as an outcome variable affected by the structure of the relational contexts in which young, unmarried mothers parent their children and dependent upon the quality of the co-parenting relationship. Specifically, we asked:
Is the generational structure of mothers’ co-parenting arrangements consequential for their parental self-efficacy?
Is the quality of mothers’ co-parenting relationship (amount of symmetry) consequential for their parental self-efficacy?
Is the relationship between co-parenting relationship quality and parental self-efficacy independent of the generational structure of the co-parenting relationship?
Finally, we were interested to know whether support could be found in the qualitative descriptions of young, unmarried mothers' early parenting experiences for any of the four pathways proposed by self-efficacy acquisition theory (Bandura, 1982), and, if so, whether differences in parental self-efficacy would be seen as a result. Methods Sample 40 mothers who had given birth as adolescents or young unmarried adults
85% African-American; 15% Caucasian -- 53% reported an income > $14,000
Mothers’ average age at the time of the interview = 24.1 yrs (range = 14 to 42 yrs )
Mothers’ average age at the time of the birth of their first child = 17.8 yrs (range = 11 to 26 yrs)
Average time since the mother gave birth to her first child = 5.3 yrs (range = 2 months to 17 yrs)
Co-residence and Co-parenting Structures
Co-residence – defined in terms of who the mother reported living with
Co-parenting – defined in terms of who the mother identified as her primary co-parenting partner
Intragenerational arrangements -- living or parenting with someone of the mother's same generational age (e.g., husband, boyfriend, or a relative/friend about her same age)
Intergenerational arrangements -- living or parenting with someone of an older generation than that of the mother (e.g., a parent, grandparent, or a relative/friend of the same generation as the mother's parent)
Single -- the living or parenting arrangements of some of the participants at the time of the interview
Parental self-efficacy -- Parenting Self-Agency Scale (Dumka, et al, 1996), a 10-item questionnaire on which the parent rates herself on a 5-point likert-type scale
Co-parenting relationship quality -- Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS-7) (Hunsley, et al, 2001). A 7-item scale assessing dimensions of dyadic functioning on a 6-point scale
Qualitative Data Analysis
During tape-recorded focus group sessions, mothers shared descriptions of their co-parenting relationships.
A grounded theory method was used, with open, axial and selective coding (LaRossa, 2005).
Five reliable categories were established into which 257 statements were coded: (1)Who supports the mother. (2) How the mother is supported. (3)Conflict/ disagreement. (4) Where mother learned to parent. (5) Showing/teaching. Inter-rater reliabilities ranged from .68 to .84.
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