Psychological distress among mothers infected with HIV: A risk and resistance model

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Donald K. Routh, Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

F. Daniel Armstrong, Committee Member


Studied 50 HIV-infected mothers of HIV-infected children to examine the relationship of risk and resistance factors to level of psychological distress. As a group, mothers infected with HIV reported significantly higher levels of distress on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and less satisfaction with their social support, even when compared to a demographically similar control group. Furthermore, partial support was provided for a risk and resistance model defining the relationships between coping styles, social support, and psychological distress. A disengaged style of coping and low satisfaction with social support were significantly associated with self-reported psychological distress. A subsample of 35 mothers was also observed interacting with their children. Observational ratings of maternal positive affect and maternal engagement were significantly related to the availability of social support reported by the mother. In addition, the use of a disengaged coping style was associated with lower ratings of maternal positive affect. An engaged coping style was found to have no relationship to self-reported psychological distress or to maternal positive affect and maternal engagement during mother-child interaction. These results suggest that HIV-infected mothers of HIV-infected children constitute a group at high risk for psychological distress and that the effectiveness of interventions targeting social support and disengaged coping strategies needs to be explored.


Psychology, Social; Psychology, Personality; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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