Title

Occupational Meanings Matter: A Mixed Method Study Examining Differences in Meaning Making and Well-Being when Caregiving for a Child with a Disability

Start Time

16-10-2009 9:30 AM

End Time

16-10-2009 11:00 AM

Abstract

As a society we expect and rely on parents to care at home for their children with special needs, often regardless of the complexity of the child’s condition or the duration of this commitment. Studying caregiving we can examine a key occupational science construct--how meaning drives participation in daily activity and in turn influences wellbeing. More caregiving demands do not necessarily equate with psychological distress. Greater caring demands for typical mothers did not diminish well-being, instead when they bolstered positive moods when successfully managed. Well-being is believed to be an integrated process of balancing our daily life pressures and desires. However, when caregiving demands seem unmanageable and proximate successful outcomes are less likely, caregivers may need other means to sustain well-being. Viewing life activities as meaningful can support well-being by providing a sense of stability, promoting personal agency and persistence, and refocusing daily priorities. Recognizing the limits of their ability to ameliorate the child’s disability and its associated challenges, parents of children with disabilities may instead reexamine and reinterpret what these caring occupations mean within their daily lives. This paper examines how meanings of caregiving occupations differ between caregivers of children with disability with high versus low self-rated psychological well-being. Thirtynine caregivers completed the in-depth interviews about their caregiving and Psychological Well-being Scales. A nonparametric test confirmed that differences in well-being were not associated with income, education, or depressive symptoms. The qualitative analysis revealed one global meaning dimension for caregiving: broadening of self, family, and world; and five situational level meaning dimensions of caregiving: intensity of caregiving; diminished personal control; perspective on caregiving demands; depth of conviction about the value of this life course; and present dwelling. For the global meaning and one dimension (broadening of self & personal control), triangulation between a relevant scale and the qualitatively-generated dimension confirmed qualitative findings of differences between the high and low groups. Findings suggest that 75% of caregivers describe frequently challenging caregiving demands. Those with self-rated high well-being construct a more positive view of the meaning of this experience that bolsters their capacity to engage in caregiving work.

References

Antonovsky, A. (1979). Health, stress, and coping: New perspectives on mental and physical well-being. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Emmons, R. A. (2005). Striving for the sacred: Personal goals, life meaning and religion. Journal of Social Issues, 61, 731-745. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2005.00429.x

Park, C.L. (2005). Religion as a meaning-making framework in coping with life stress. Journal of Social Issues, 61, 707-729. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2005.00428.x

Ryan, S., & Runswick-Cole, K. (2008). Repositioning mothers: mothers, disabled children and disability studies. Disability in Society, 23, 199-210. DOI: 10.1080/09687590801953937

Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (2006). Best news yet on the six-factor model of well-being. Social Science Research, 35, 1103-1119. DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2006.01.002

Scorgie, K. & Sobsey D. (2000). Transformational outcomes associated with parenting children who have disabilities. Mental Retardation, 38, 195-206. DOI: 10.1352/0047-6765(2000)038<0195:TOAWPC>2.0.CO;2

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Oct 16th, 9:30 AM Oct 16th, 11:00 AM

Occupational Meanings Matter: A Mixed Method Study Examining Differences in Meaning Making and Well-Being when Caregiving for a Child with a Disability

As a society we expect and rely on parents to care at home for their children with special needs, often regardless of the complexity of the child’s condition or the duration of this commitment. Studying caregiving we can examine a key occupational science construct--how meaning drives participation in daily activity and in turn influences wellbeing. More caregiving demands do not necessarily equate with psychological distress. Greater caring demands for typical mothers did not diminish well-being, instead when they bolstered positive moods when successfully managed. Well-being is believed to be an integrated process of balancing our daily life pressures and desires. However, when caregiving demands seem unmanageable and proximate successful outcomes are less likely, caregivers may need other means to sustain well-being. Viewing life activities as meaningful can support well-being by providing a sense of stability, promoting personal agency and persistence, and refocusing daily priorities. Recognizing the limits of their ability to ameliorate the child’s disability and its associated challenges, parents of children with disabilities may instead reexamine and reinterpret what these caring occupations mean within their daily lives. This paper examines how meanings of caregiving occupations differ between caregivers of children with disability with high versus low self-rated psychological well-being. Thirtynine caregivers completed the in-depth interviews about their caregiving and Psychological Well-being Scales. A nonparametric test confirmed that differences in well-being were not associated with income, education, or depressive symptoms. The qualitative analysis revealed one global meaning dimension for caregiving: broadening of self, family, and world; and five situational level meaning dimensions of caregiving: intensity of caregiving; diminished personal control; perspective on caregiving demands; depth of conviction about the value of this life course; and present dwelling. For the global meaning and one dimension (broadening of self & personal control), triangulation between a relevant scale and the qualitatively-generated dimension confirmed qualitative findings of differences between the high and low groups. Findings suggest that 75% of caregivers describe frequently challenging caregiving demands. Those with self-rated high well-being construct a more positive view of the meaning of this experience that bolsters their capacity to engage in caregiving work.