One of ECA’s own had the opportunity to present at SRCD’s Biennial conference. An overview of that presentation is below.

What do Caregivers Bring to the Table? A Qualitative Exploration of Caregiver Characteristics and Experiences Across Ecological Contexts

Nicole O’Dea, MA, Wyatt Hoover, & Ana K. Marcelo, PhD

Caregiver characteristics (i.e., cognitions, affective responses) and factors of stress and support across developmentally salient ecological contexts (i.e., home, school, and community) are primary determinants of the nature and quality of caregiving (Tarbin & Shaw, 2018). Caregivers engage with, perceive, and are differentially influenced by each of these contexts, implying the potential for experiencing different types of stress or support based on the ecological context.

Utilizing a qualitative approach, the present study sought to gain a more thorough understanding of caregiver experiences of stress and support across ecological contexts by examining relations between emergent caregiver characteristics and the ways that caregivers appraised their experiences (i.e., stressful, supportive)

Sixteen caregivers completed in-depth semi-structured interviews either in-person or over the phone prior to the pandemic. Interview questions explored caregiver unique experiences of stress and support specific to each context. Probes were adapted and used as needed to encourage or expand on the description of experiences. Data were analyzed in NVivo using thematic analysis with an inductive approach (Braun & Clarke, 2012), where themes are derived solely from the data.

Findings can inform applied settings in the following ways:

  • Our ability to tailor intervention content, implementation, and dosage.
  • Addressing caregiver stress through a combined service approach (i.e., connecting supports across ecological contexts).
  • Caregiver education focused on developmental implications of their own characteristics (i.e., dysregulation) and their experiences of stress and support.
  • Foundation for a culturally sensitive framework that addresses the needs of adults caring for young children across ecological contexts.

Major themes:

Caregiver distrust (i.e., in others, community) and emotion regulation were salient to the ways in which caregivers characterized experiences of stress and support.

Caregivers’ desire to “do it all” across contexts (i.e., maintaining households, job duties, children’s academic needs)

Caregiver cultural beliefs and values differentially influence perceptions of home, school and community contexts and engagement in those contexts.

Caregivers were not entirely aware of how their own characteristics and experiences of stress and support influence their children’s development.


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