An Initial Investigation of Parenting Stress, Social-Emotional Protective Factors, and Behavior Concerns within a Head Start Population

Stacy L. Bender, John S. Carlson


This study examines associations between parenting stress, protective factors, and behavior concerns in an at-risk preschool population. Participants included 77 parents of children enrolled in Head Start programs in the Midwest, which served predominantly low-income, diverse parent and child populations. Parents completed a parenting stress questionnaire and a questionnaire that assessed for children’s protective factors and behavior concerns. Associations were found between elevated protective factors and low parenting stress, as well as between elevated behavior concerns and elevated parenting stress. Parents of children exhibiting more protective factors had significantly less parenting stress, compared to parents of children exhibiting more behavior concerns. Additionally, parents with non-clinical levels of parenting stress had children that exhibited significantly more protective factors and less behavior concerns compared to children of parents with clinically significant levels of parenting stress. This is the first study to demonstrate that low levels of parenting stress are associated with more protective factors in an at-risk preschool population. Future research needs to explore the predictive nature parenting stress and protective factors have on one another, given the bi-directionality of parent-child interactions.

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Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology   ISSN 1927-0526 (Print)   ISSN 1927-0534 (Online)

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