SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Role Overload as a Predictor of Mother and Father Engagement During Infancy (Poster)
Session: Parenting & Parent-Child Relationships
Authors: Martha Yumiseva-Lackenbacher, Natasha Cabrera, Catherine Kuhns, Stephanie Reich
Abstract: Introduction: Parenting is rewarding, but also intense and places multiple demands on parent’s time and energy to meet children’s basic needs for optimal development. The ways in which parents engage with their children may be compromised when parents’ experience an excess of demands on their time, known as role overload (Avrech & Jarus, 2015). Parents who report feeling overwhelmed in their parenting role tend to show less supportive and nurturing interactions with their children and are less cognitively stimulating and emotionally responsive (Emery & Tuer, 1993; Whiteside-Mansell et al., 2007). Moreover, limited research on fathers suggests that fathers who are actively involved in their children’s childrearing, may face similar role overload as mothers. There is also evidence that role overload stressors more negatively impact fathers’ engagement compared to mothers’ engagement (Almeida, Wethington, & Chadler, 1999). It is less clear, however, whether role overload is related to parent engagement for low-income mothers and fathers. Being economically disadvantaged compromises parents’ parenting abilities and is negatively related with parent engagement (Conger & Elder, 1994; Bronte-Tinkew, Horowitz, & Carrano, 2010). However, no research has examined the association of role overload and multiple domains of parent engagement or compared mothers and fathers in a low-income sample of first-time parents.
Drawing from the family stress model, which suggests that stress undermines parents’ interactions with their children, we ask: (1) Does role overload predict parent engagement behaviors and for which domain (caregiving, physical play and cognitive stimulation) and (2) Are there any differences between mother’s and father’s parent engagement due to role overload? Given the limited literature, we expect to find a negative association between role overload and parenting engagement, but do not have a specific hypothesis about which domain. We also hypothesize that both mothers and fathers may experience similar levels of role overload. Moreover, based on evidence showing that mothers recover faster from role overload (Gottman & Levenson, 1986), we expect to find that role overload has less effect on the quantity of maternal engagement compared to fathers.
We use data from an ongoing parenting intervention of low-income predominantly Latino and African American first-time mothers and fathers (n = 188; 94 mothers, 94 fathers). When their children were 9 months, parents were asked to report on their role overload as well as their engagement across three domains: caregiving, physical play, and cognitive stimulation.
Initial analyses show that mothers (M = 4.76, SD = 0.56) are significantly more engaged with their children compared to fathers (M = 4.30, SD = 0.71); (t (93) = 5.41 p < .001). Parent engagement is negatively correlated with role overload for mothers (r=-.08, p < .01) but positively correlated for fathers (r=.03, p < .01). Findings will contribute to a better understating of the impact that role overload has on first-time mothers and fathers engagement along three domains: caregiving, physical play and cognitive stimulation. Such information can be included in existing interventions aimed at improving parent engagement in low-income families.