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Maternal Self-Efficacy in Mothers of Toddlers Enrolled in an Early Head Start Program

Based on a social learning perspective, the construct of parental self-efficacy is explored within a small sample of low-income, culturally diverse mothers of toddlers enrolled in an Early Head Start program in New Castle County, Delaware. The intent of this study was threefold: (1) to determine relevant factors in the lives of low-income mothers that influenced mothers' parental self-efficacy; (2) to examine the relationship between maternal self-efficacy and behavioral interactions between mothers and their toddlers; and, (3) to examine possible associations between parental self-efficacy and participation in an Early Head Start program. Using questionnaire, observation, and interview methodologies, assessment of twenty mothers' parental self-efficacy was examined along with depression, knowledge of child development, perception of child temperament, life stress, and parenting stress. Mother-child interaction was also assessed. In general, mothers reported a high level of efficacy in the parenting role. However, mothers reported higher task-specific efficacy (e.g., efficacy regarding daily caregiving events) than more generalized notions of parental self-efficacy. Qualitative results indicate that many daily events that are particularly salient for low-income mothers, such as neighborhood safety and being the sole caregiver for their child, often more accurately reflect their feelings of efficacy. These issues are not typically included within current parental self-efficacy measures. Surprisingly, both the task-specific and generalized measures of parental self-efficacy were negatively correlated with maternal behavior. Thus, mothers reporting the highest levels of parental efficacy tended to demonstrate less positive, emotionally responsive behavior in their interactions with their toddler. Qualitatively, all of the mothers reported receiving child development and parenting information from the Early Head Start program. However, mothers who reported having an emotional relationship with their Early Head Start service provider were more likely to describe the program as influencing their feelings of confidence as a parent. Implications for intervention and future research are discussed.
Resource Type:
Administration for Children and Families/OPRE Projects
Principal Investigator(s):
Research Scholar(s):

Related resources include summaries, versions, measures (instruments), or other resources in which the current document plays a part. Research products funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation are related to their project records.

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