Likewise, the study would not include unmarried couples, single-parent homes, or couples without children. With 50 to 60 participants couples gathered and fulfilling the necessary qualifications for division into the two categories, those with a Special Needs child will be identified as the SN group whereas those with a non-Special Needs child will be identified as the SNS group.
Statistical analysis will rely on the use of a t-test, an appropriate mode of assessing comparative inventory scores and their meaning in the case of this particular study design. According to Trochim (2006), "the t-test assesses whether the means of two groups are statistically different from each other. This analysis is appropriate whenever you want to compare the means of two groups, and especially appropriate as the analysis for the posttest-only two-group randomized experimental design." (Trochim, p. 1)
Ultimately, the inventory responses and the statistical analysis conducted through the aforementioned t-test demonstrate a clear distinction in the parental stresses experienced by those in the Special Needs category vs. those in the non-Special Needs category. For the SN group, higher levels of parental stress are experienced both in the areas of individual stress and relational stress. This produces higher levels of negative feeling, according to inventory responses, relating to the experience of parenting and to the quality of the marital relationship.
Discussion and Recommendations:
The findings here above confirm the original hypothesis that higher levels of individual stress and marital stress are likely to be experienced by those whose child or children have special needs than by those whose child or children do not have such needs. Additionally, these findings underscore the problem stated at the outset that poor management of this parenting stress can lead to negative consequences both for the special needs child and for the parents themselves. This points to the primary contribution of this study to the larger field of research, which is illumination of the higher level of support need represented in the particular demographic of parents with special needs children.
This support need, in turn, points to the recommendations produced by the present research. Key among them is the recommendation for heightened outreach to parents whose children fall into the broad special needs category operationally defined here. Such support may include heightened access to marital counseling, the establishment of group therapy meetings, the creation of appropriately conditioned special needs play-groups and a host of other steps through pediatrician offices, schools and parent advocacy groups that can reduce the feeling of isolation so common in parents of special needs children. An additional recommendation would call for a study focused primarily on how to refine strategies for the reduction of parenting stress in families with special needs children. Another study subject might take the steps to evaluate families with multiple children, where one or more fall into a special needs category.
Ultimately, the present research provides a strong case for the assessment that communities and public health agencies must do more to reach out to and provide support for the parents of special needs children. Better recognition of the public health problem represented by the heightened parental stress in such contexts might help to produce the steps necessary to alleviate such stress. This, in turn, will produce more positive long-term outcomes for individual parents, for their marital stability and for their child's formative experiences.
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