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Predictors of empowerment among parents of school-age children with disabilities : the role of family-centered bahavior Robinson, Georgina

Abstract

In this study, the perceptions of parents of elementary school age children with disabilities, constructs of family-centered behavior (e.g., Petr, Allen, & Brown, 1995) and empowerment (e.g., Zimmerman, 1995, 2000) were examined. Parent perceptions of the importance and frequency of an empowerment process, family-centered teacher behavior, were explored. Previous work of family support researchers is extended by exploring the effects of parents' perceptions of family-centered teacher behavior on psychological empowerment, and by considering the relative importance of parent and child variables and family-centered teacher behavior, in predicting parent psychological empowerment, specific to the elementary school context. Parents (n = 256) of elementary school-age children (ages 5-14) with a wide range of disabilities/special needs completed a questionnaire assessing: their perceptions of the importance and frequency of family-centered teacher behavior, psychological empowerment, parent status variables (income and education level) and child disability characteristics. As hypothesized, respondents rated family-centered teacher behavior as very important, but they identified that they only "sometimes" experienced it in the elementary school setting. In addition, a significant discrepancy between parent ratings of importance and frequency was found, suggesting that parents overall are not satisfied with the levels of family-centered behavior they receive from teachers. Some relationships between parent and child characteristics and psychological empowerment were found. As hypothesized, the importance of parents' perceptions of family-centered teacher behavior in predicting psychological empowerment, specific to the school context, above and beyond parent and child characteristics, was supported. Child disability characteristics (severity of child behavior and diagnostic category) also contributed to the prediction of empowerment, but parent characteristics were not important or significant in the final increment of the regression model. Implications and the potential of this study to inform practice and policy and to contribute to new directions in research are discussed.

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