Mental health literacy and parenting cognitions in biological mothers and female foster carers
The overarching objective of this program of research was to investigate the mental health literacy for both adult and child mental health disorders, well-being factors, and perceptions of parenting competence in both biological mothers and female foster carers. There is a dearth of studies comparatively investigating these factors in both biological parents and foster carers, with such lines of enquiry having implications for parenting and mental health education and therapeutic intervention programs, and therefore contributing to the well-being of families and children broadly in the community.
This thesis comprises nine chapters commencing with the general introduction chapter. The first set of related empirical chapters (chapter 2 to 4) focus on mental health literacy (MHL) in caregiving populations in both adult and child mental health (MH) disorders. Chapter 2 specifically focuses on MHL in biological mothers, and investigates differences in mothers caring for children of different age ranges (specifically, infants, 0-2 years; pre-school children, 3-6 years, and school-aged children and adolescents, 7-17 years), including accuracy in identifying MH disorders, and association with parental lived experience and perceived distress.
The objective of Chapter 3 was to investigate the MHL for foster carers, including evaluating whether differences were evident in foster carers providing care for children of different age ranges. The same aims as the first empirical study presented in Chapter 2 were tested in the foster carer sample. Extending upon this research, the objective for the third MHL study presented in Chapter 4 was to compare whether parental/carer MHL and associated indices were comparable between the two samples of foster carers and biological mothers.
The second set of empirical studies presented in Chapters 5 through to 8 focused on testing the associations of two parental factors, parental sense of competency (PSOC) and parental/carer perceptions of their relationship with their child. The specific objective of the study presented in Chapter 5 was to investigate differences in emotional well-being of biological mothers and foster carers, according to the age of the child they were parenting / caring for. Furthermore, the relationship between PSOC and caregiver perception of their relationship with their child and well-being was investigated.
The objective of Chapter 6 was to comparatively investigate trait resiliency and the association with PSOC and caregiver perception of their relationship with their child, between foster carers and biological parents according to the age of their child. Caregiver emotion regulation, and the association with PSOC and caregiver perception of relationship with their child were also comparatively investigated between caregiving groups.
The objective of Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 was to investigate associations between caregiver perceptions of child well-being, and PSOC and caregiver perceived relationship with child, comparatively between biological parents and foster carers caring for preschool age (3-6 years) and school age children (7-17 years) respectively. Chapter 9 provides a general summation and discussion of the collective findings of this program of research including clinical implications, as well as limitations and future directions.