Parenting efficacy in parents of Indigenous children

Written by Deborah Kikkawa, Department of Social Services

The quality and stability of a child’s human relationships in the early years lay the foundation for a wide range of later developmental outcomes (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004). In their early years, the most important relationships children have are with their parents. Strategies for supporting parents are recognised as an effective way to improve the health, well-being and development of children.

Parenting Efficacy in Parents of Indigenous ChildrenParenting is influenced by many factors including the behaviour and characteristics of the child, the health and psychological well-being of the parent and the contextual influences of stress and support. Parenting difficulties are a major source of stress for parents, and parenting self-efficacy has been shown to be an important buffer against parenting stress (Bloomfield & Kendall, 2012). 

The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children: Footprints in Time provides an opportunity to explore the parenting confidence of parents of Indigenous children through use of the Parenting Empowerment and Efficacy Measure (PEEM). PEEM measures primary carers’ parenting self-efficacy, their sense of personal agency with respect to their parenting role. PEEM responses indicate the degree of confidence with which parents approach and manage the challenges of raising children. This includes the degree to which they feel empowered to find and make use of formal services and informal support systems in order to achieve their goals as a parent and to help their children thrive.

The importance of parenting confidence for children

Footprints in Time shows that the primary carers of Indigenous children are very confident in their parenting skills, reporting higher average PEEM scores than for the mainly non-Indigenous parents in the Pathways to Prevention Project for which the PEEM measure was originally developed. The Pathways to Prevention Project also recorded higher average PEEM scores for Indigenous parents in the project than for non-Indigenous parents.

The literature on parenting self-efficacy discusses the relationship between parenting self-efficacy and parenting skills, demonstrating that parents with better parenting self-efficacy have better parenting skills which in turn lead to better outcomes for the child.

The analysis of the Footprints in Time data shows that better parenting self-efficacy is associated with lower scores in children’s social and emotional difficulties measured through the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Higher PEEM scores were also associated with children having stronger abilities to interact socially.

Predictors of parenting confidence

There are potentially many factors that could be associated with parenting efficacy in general and for Indigenous parents in particular.

Footprints in Time shows that the main significant influences on the variation in the responses to PEEM are social, cultural and personal resilience (as measured through a modified version of the Strong Souls assessment tool); satisfaction with relationships; and satisfaction with feeling part of the community. These three factors explain nearly a quarter of the variation of scores. Other factors influencing parental self-efficacy to a lesser extent are community safety and better parental health (associated with higher PEEM scores), and financial stress (associated with lower PEEM scores).

The feature image is by Ryohei Ishii, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0