Background Children with intellectual disability are at heightened risk for behaviour problems, and these are known to increase parenting stress. This study explored the relation of behaviour problems to less child-related domains of parent well-being (depression and marital adjustment), as well as the moderating effect of a personality trait, dispositional optimism.
Method Participating children (N = 214) were classified as developmentally delayed, borderline, or nondelayed. Mothers’ and fathers’ well-being and child behaviour problems were assessed at child ages 3 and 4 years.
Results Parents of delayed and nondelayed preschoolers generally did not differ on depression or marital adjustment, but child behaviour problems were strongly related to scores on both measures. Optimism moderated this relationship, primarily for mothers. When child behaviour problems were high, mothers who were less optimistic reported lower scores on measures of well-being than did mothers who were more optimistic.
Conclusions Interventions for parents that aim to enhance both parenting skills and psycholog- ical well-being should be available in preschool. It may be beneficial for such programmes to focus not only on behaviour management strategies aimed at child behaviour change, but also on parents’ belief systems, with the aim of increasing dispositional optimism.