Gender and Nurturance in Families of Children With Neurodevelopmental Conditions

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Abstract

Objective:

This study tested the hypothesis that gender differences in parent-reported nurturance of children would be attenuated in families of children with neurodevelopmental conditions (NDCs).

Method:

In this cross-sectional study, participants included 49 (29 male) children diagnosed with an NDC and 60 (30 male) typically developing (TD) children. Children in the NDC group had a diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP; n = 41) or spina bifida (SB; n = 8). Parental nurturance was measured using the nurturance subscale of the Parenting Dimensions Inventory (PDI; Power, 1991). Data were analyzed using a 2 × 2 (gender × diagnosis) analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with child age as the covariate.

Results:

As a simple main effect, parents reported more nurturing behavior toward TD girls than TD boys. However, girls with an NDC received less nurturance, thereby eliminating the gender difference in parental nurturance in the NDC sample. This pattern was reflected in the larger ANCOVA as a 2-way interaction between diagnosis and gender. Group differences in other PDI subscales were not statistically significant.

Conclusions and Significance:

This pattern of results suggests that the parents of girls with NDCs may be less nurturing toward them, thereby attenuating gender differences observed in families with TD children. Findings highlight the need for more research on the gendered dynamics in families with a child with an NDC to develop systemic models of family functioning and targeted parenting interventions for this group.

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