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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Graduate Nursing

First Advisor

Dianna Sorenson


parenting, mothers, working mothers


Nurses have the unique opportunity to work with families across the lifespan. A frequently encountered group Is women with Infants. Mothers with infants experience many changes that Influence their maternal role.
Maternal competence Is a woman's perceived ability to skillfully and successfully promote her Infant's development and well being and her comfort In doing so. Maternal competence Is a behavioral component of the process of maternal role attainment, which forms the maternal identity.
The literature cites several factors related to maternal competence, such as parity, social support. Infant characteristics, and more. The purpose of this Investigation was to examine relationships among maternal role competence, employment status, parenting Information sources used to learn about parenting, and personal characteristics. A descriptive correlational approach was used.
Data analysis included 139 mothers of healthy, singleton Infants less than 13 months old. The mothers represented a rural area in a Midwestern state. The average age of respondents was 28 years, and 86 % of the women were married. Respondents were white, and over 40 % had college educations or beyond, with less than 3% having less than a high school education. The average age of the infants was 5.7 months. The women had an average of 2.2 children. The majority of women perceived their income as more than enough to make ends meet. Data collection took place in private and public health clinics and community parenting groups.
Results indicated an overall high level of maternal competence using the Parenting Sense of Competence (Revised) scale. One demographic variable, perceived adequacy of income to meet family needs, was positively correlated with maternal competence for the entire sample.
Non-employed mothers in the sample were more likely to be married, have a higher level of education, and have more children than employed mothers. Employed mothers were more likely to report their incomes as more than able to meet their families' needs than were non-employed women.
Maternal competence levels did not differ statistically between employed and non-employed women. However, perceived adequacy of income was significantly related to perceived maternal competence among non-employed women. For employed women, infant age was negatively correlated with perceived maternal competence.
Subjects reported an average of 11.4 of a possible 20 sources of parenting education and information as helpful in learning to be a good parent. Sources of education were separated into two categories: (a) formal ~ those based on education or empirical findings, and (b) informal ~ those based on experience or tradition. The subjects indicated their mothers and physicians as the most helpful sources of parenting information. Other frequently cited responses were spouse / baby's father, friends, magazines, books, prenatal classes, and Early Childhood Family Education classes. High use of Informal sources of parenting education was related to low perceived maternal competence.
This study emphasizes the developmental process of maternal competence and the vast array of potentially influential factors. Nursing care of mothers with infants must include assessment of perceived parenting skills and comfort with the maternal role, or maternal competence. Nursing interventions directed at strengthening women's maternal competence are vital in supporting the health and well being of women and their families.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Working mothers



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1998 Janelle Sunvold-Palmer. All rights reserved