Assessment of the psychometric features of two Perceived Maternal Competence (PMC) scales with a sample of adolescent mothers

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Secco, M. Loretta
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Over the past decade, the psychosocial characteristic of Perceived Maternal Competence (PMC) has gained recognition for its possible relationship with performed maternal competence (PerMC) usually measured as mother-infant interaction quality or provision of cognitive stimulation in the home. PMC scales with strong psychometric features are required to examine possible relationships among maternal variables, mothering behavior, and infant developmental outcomes. This doctoral study established psychometric properties for the two investigator-developed PMC scales: the prenatal Infant Care Expectation Questionnaire (ICEQ) and the postnatal Infant Care Questionnaire (ICQ). Theoretical guidance is derived from Belsky's parenting determinants model which emphasizes the interplay of situational, psychosocial, and child characteristics in determining parenting competence and child developmental outcome. Maternal role theory describes PMC as a psychosocial characteristic defined as the mother's self-assessment of her ability to care for and interact with her infant. Data were collected on a convenience sample of 60, primiparous adolescent mothers (i.e., less than 20 years old) recruited from two clinics typically used for prenatal care by adolescents in Winnipeg. Adolescent mothers were selected to provide a broader range of scores on the PMC scales. PMC was assessed prenatally and during the first and fourth weeks postpartum. Other variables which may influence and/or modify PMC were assessed such as depression, self-esteem, perceived and enacted social support, and socioeconomic factors. Study findings revealed high internal consistency reliability for the two PMG scales (Cronbach alpha coefficients from.88 to.91) and a significant, three week test-retest temporal stability (Pearson coefficient r =.69; p =.0000). Construct validity was evidenced by a significant increase in PMC with time in the mothering role from the prenatal to four week measure (Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance; F = 8.09; p =.0007). Although predicted PMC differences between younger (less than 17 years) and older (17 to 19 years) adolescent mothers were seen, small sample size and age group contrast may have contributed to the lack of significance. It is also possible that time and experience in the mothering role are stronger determinants of PMC than age alone. While concurrent validity correlation between scores on the PMC and a similar scale (i.e., Maternal Self-Report Inventory) failed to achieve predicted strength $(r=.37$; p =.01), when five less related items were removed from the MSI scale the correlation strength increased (i.e., $r=.51$; p =.0003). In this study self-esteem was the strongest explanatory variable accounting for 17.3% of the variance in the PMC scores. The finding of a significant relationship between self-esteem and PMC was consistent with previous research with older mothers. Multiple regression ana ysis revealed that self-esteem significantly explained the four week PMC scores even after the role of previous experience was controlled.