Child rearing has always been one of life’s major challenges and potential sources of self-fulfillment. In today’s world, divorce and unwed parenthood often alter parenting time and commitment for both parents, and attractive occupational options or excessive job requirements may affect motivation, time, or energy available for parenting. Connections between parental attitudes and child-rearing behaviors have previously been documented, but standardized instruments to measure parenting satisfaction are not available. The Parenting Satisfaction Scale (PSS) was constructed to meet this need for reliable assessment of an important family variable at a time of a major family change. Scores derived from this 45-item scale enable mental health and judicial personnel to define, compare, and communicate levels of parent satisfaction in three domains: satisfaction with spouse or other parent’s child-rearing performance, satisfaction with the responding parent’s relationship with the child, and satisfaction with the responding parent’s own parenting performance.
PSS Scale Development
Initially, scale items were generated from an open-ended questionnaire administered to a heterogeneous sample of approximately 100 adults ranging in age from 21 to 54 years. A total of 259 items were generated from this procedure. Thirty-five members from the original group then reviewed the items for clarity and critical relevance to the parenting role, and a panel of three experts from the field of child and family development assessed the items’ face validity. A pool of 211 items remained after these refining procedures.
A volunteer pilot sample of 78 mothers and 52 fathers was then selected from local community groups. This sample ranged in age from 21 to 71 years, and 91% were Caucasian. Educational levels ranged from less than high school to postdoctoral study, and the ages of children in their families ranged from 6 weeks to 38 years.
The PSS responses from the pilot sample were analyzed using principal components factor analysis and equimax rotation, yielding five factors with the 10 highest-loading items used to construct each scale. These pilot phase factors were examined for criterion validity, using four related scales: the Dyadic Adjustment Scale developed by Spanier; two Marital and Life Satisfaction Scales developed by Lee; and the Life Satisfaction Index developed by Neugarten, Havighurst, and Tobin. The PSS total score related significantly to each of the criterion scales, with correlations ranging from .46 to .56. The internal consistency of this pilot version was examined with Cronbach’s alpha, and reliabilities ranged from .76 to .93 for the five individual scales and the total score.
The final phase of PSS development involved national standardization and validity analyses. In a nationwide “impact of divorce” study by the National Association of School Psychologists, 144 psychologists from 38 states were selected in a stratified random sample based on regional population density. The psychologists randomly selected 699 children from the first, third, and fifth grades to represent samples of divorced-family and intact-family children. From the total sample of 699 families, 341 married and 303 divorced parents completed the scale by the project deadline date. The sample was composed primarily of mothers (89%), Caucasians (88%), and public school parents (97%). The sample was evenly balanced by child’s gender, grade in school, and school demographic area.
Factor analyses of these data yielded three factors with eigenvalues greater than one. Separate analyses were done for divorced and intact families, and the factors were found to be equivalent, with congruence coefficients at .93 or greater. The first factor was labeled Satisfaction with Spouse/Ex-Spouse Parenting Performance, the second factor was labeled Satisfaction with Parent-Child Relationship, and the third factor was labeled Satisfaction with Parenting Performance. Internal reliabilities for the three factors were r = .96, r = .86, and r = .82, respectively. These three factors of 15 items each made up the final scale.
Two years later, data were gathered on a follow-up subsample of 137 subjects. Chi-square analyses on demographic variables verified that this sample was representative of the original study group. Internal reliabilities for follow-up sample PSS scores were calculated and found again to be high (r is equal to .95, .89, and .82 for the three scales, respectively). Test-retest reliability was moderate across this 2-year span (r is equal to .81, .59, and .64, respectively, for the three factors).
The extensive battery of instruments used in the nationwide study and the assessment of subjects at two points in time enabled an unusual number of validity comparisons. At Time 1, PSS scales showed consistently significant relationships with children’s social and academic performance; family health ratings; children’s ratings of parent-child relationships; and parental marital, vocational, and life satisfaction scores. Time 1 PSS scores also significantly predicted a number of important child and parental variables 2 years later. For example, with regard to PSS 1 (Satisfaction with Spouse/ Ex-Spouse Support), teachers rated the children of satisfied parents as less withdrawn, happier, working hard, having fewer behavior problems, and receiving higher grades in several school subjects. Time 2 children’s health status and teacher ratings of social competence were predicted across the 2-year time interval by all three PSS scales.
Comparing families of high and low parenting satisfaction yielded additional validity information. Using only subjects falling into the top or bottom one third of the PSS distribution at Time 1, consistently significant differences in criterion scores favoring the highly satisfied parents were noted. PSS total scores differed significantly on seven of the eight selected criteria, including total teacher ratings of classroom behavior for two rating scales, academic achievement test scores, parents’ ratings of children’s behavior problems, parents’ life and marital satisfaction scale scores, and children’s interview responses about the quality of their relationships with their parents.
In other studies, the PSS demonstrated additional substantial evidence of validity. For example, a study of stress in the lives of college-educated women used PSS 2 and PSS 3 to assess satisfaction with the parent-child relationship and parenting performance. For the 630 women respondents, these PSS scales were strongly related to a broad array of other life measures, including total support from friends, relatives, and the community; marital satisfaction; life satisfaction; and physical health. Two additional studies conducted in urban schools with high-risk special education populations and one done in a child guidance center with behavioral problem children showed strong positive relationships between child adjustment variables and PSS scores.
PSS assessment of 1,710 Chinese parents was done as part of a cross-cultural study conducted in the People’s Republic of China. Correlations with child variables were consistently in the expected direction. Better PSS scores related to better academic and social adjustment of children. This cross-cultural validity demonstration further strengthened confidence in the PSS instrument, illustrating that the item content and the three scales have broad applicability.
The PSS has been refined and validated through large-scale studies on both national and international populations. This standardized instrument can be useful in a variety of situations where individual emotional health is assessed or when parenting or coparenting relationships are the subject of study. For example, court personnel may find it useful when examining the quality of parent-child interactions prior to custody determination or following parenting education interventions. School psychologists may find PSS information useful in understanding the etiology of children’s school problems.
- Guidubaldi, J., & Cleminshaw, H. K. (1994). Manual for the Parenting Satisfaction Scale. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
- Guidubaldi, J., & Cleminshaw, H. K. (1985). The development of the Cleminshaw-Guidubaldi Parent Satisfaction Scale. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 14, 293-298.
- Guidubaldi, J., Perry, J., & Cleminshaw, H. K. (1984). The legacy of parental divorce. In B. B. Lahey & A. E. Kazdin (Eds.), Advances in clinical child psychology (Vol. 7, pp. 109-147). New York: Plenum Press.