The Maternal Role in Promoting Emotional Competence: Predicting Head Start Mothers' Expressiveness, Perceived Role, and Receptivity to Support

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Guided by Bioecological Systems Theory and Schema Theory, I investigated mothers' perceptions regarding the emotional development of their preschool children. Researchers acknowledge mothers' contributing role in influencing children's behavioral displays of emotion, but there is a dearth in the literature on mothers' emotion-related behaviors, beliefs, and needs. In my quantitative study, I collected self-report data from a mid-Atlantic, low-income, urban sample of Head Start mothers (n = 114) and assessed which child, mother, and/or community-based factors may predict the probability of mothers being high in negative expressiveness, low in positive expressiveness, not strongly supportive of the literature in their perceived role in emotional development, and not highly receptive to parent-focused support. I pretested my devised Perceived Role and Receptivity to Support measure and conducted interviewer-administered interviews

(using my devised measure, the Parenting Stress Scale, the Early Childhood Behavior Problem Screening Scale, and the Self-Expressiveness in the Family Questionnaire). Results supported only a few instances of group uniformity, with mostly group variability in Head Start mothers' emotion-related behaviors, beliefs and needs. Further, logistic regression analyses suggested: (1) mothers are likely to be high in negative expressiveness when raising a preschooler with a combination of internalizing and externalizing behaviors, high in parenting stress, and obtaining at least an Associate's degree; (2) mothers are predicted to be less positive in expressiveness when raising a preschooler with a delay, not having had any child in the family receive specialized services, raising only one child, dropping out of high school, and not having received advice from Head Start staff; (3) mothers are predicted to be less supportive of the purported role of mothers in the literature when raising only one child and not having received behavior advice from Head Start staff; (4) mothers are predicted to be lower in receptiveness to parent-focused support when raising a preschooler with no perceived behavior concerns, anticipating maladaptive behaviors to improve with age, raising only one child, dropping out of high school, and having had fewer outreach efforts in the past. I discuss implications for research and practice, including how results may inform early screening and parenting intervention initiatives.