Susan Shaw

University of New Hamphshire

Occupational Therapy


Mentor: Dr. Barbara Prudhomme White, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy

Links between occupational histories, parental stress, and social emotional well-being in children and mothers living in adverse circumstances

Resiliency, which is defined as a good adaptation in the face of severe stress, has been extensively researched in children and adults, revealing that experience in adversity is mediated by "protective factors," including self-esteem, supportive family milieu, positive coping skills, and an external support system. Individuals who experience a greater number of protective factors tend to demonstrate increased resiliency.

Occupational Science, the discipline that supports occupational therapy practice, emphasizes how human involvement in meaningful occupations may improve the quality of life. Occupational therapists have long been concerned with connections between purposeful involvement in daily activities and its relation to health. The intent of this descriptive, correlational design research is to explore relations between variables of involvement in daily occupations with variables of emotional/social health and stress. Information was gathered from both parent and child through a variety of assessment tools and short interviews. Participation criteria for a sample of convenience was single, mother-headed households who met poverty level requirements and lived in low-income housing.

The research was designed to explore the following:

  1. Relations between
    1. levels of involvement and competence in occupations and
    2. measures of social/emotional health.
  2. Relations between parental stress, involvement in occupations, and parent/child health status.
  3. Identify barriers to participation in occupations among individuals living in adverse circumstances.

Occupational therapy has branched into community settings and is developing intervention strategies aligned with promoting health in specific populations, such as that described above. However, additional information about the relations between involvement in daily occupations and current health and living status is needed to further develop effective interventions.

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