Feeling Competent to Parent

Parents sometimes feel inadequate to parent. Although many enjoy parenting and delight in their children, few can deny that parenting is often a challenge. Some feel unprepared. Some enjoy their children but feel frustrated. Some feel they are less capable than other parents.

The Parenting Sense of Competence scale (PSOC) consists of 17 or 16 items depending on the version. The items are rated on a scale of 1 to 6 with anchors of 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree.

Authors: Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman (1978)

Internal consistency estimates of reliability range from the mid .70s to .80s in previous studies.
Research suggests that the items can be grouped into two subscales: Satisfaction with Parenting and Efficacy.

Early wording of some scale items used only the word “mother,” but these items have been revised by other researchers to refer to either mother or father (e.g., see Ohan, Leung, & Johnston, 2000).

Scoring: Several items are reverse-scored. See below for the download links to the PSOC scale with scoring instructions.

Although, the PSOC has been reported in research studies, clinicians may consider the scale useful in work with clients. Average scores for mothers and fathers of children in different age groups can be found in the Ohan et al. (2000) study. Clearly, samples may differ therefore, clinicians must be careful to note that score differences they obtain may be due to different samples rather than different levels of sense of competence in parenting. Clinicians are advised to develop local norms for all scales.

Also relevant to readers unfamiliar with research-- the PSOC scale measures a parent's sense of competence -- the scale does not measure actual competence. Thus, a parent may feel low on competence but actually be highly competent within one's culture.

Applied Statistics: Concepts for Counselors

Examples of instructions and two items are as follows:

Please rate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each of the following statements.

Strongly                                           Somewhat          Somewhat                                          Strongly
Disagree              Disagree              Disagree              Agree                    Agree                    Agree
      1                             2                             3                       4                             5                             6

8.   A difficult problem in being a parent is not knowing whether you’re
      doing a good job or a bad one.                                                                                         

15.  I honestly believe I have all the skills necessary to be a good mother
       to my child.                                                                                                                            

In their survey, Ohan and her colleagues included the Child Behavior Checklist and the Child-Rearing Practices Report (see reference and article link below).

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DOWNLOAD: The Ohan et al. (2002) article, which includes the scale is at this link:

Resource Link:  A – Z Test Index


Gibaud-Wallston, J., & Wandersman,  L.P. (1978, August). Development and utility of the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada

Ohan, J., Leung, D.W., & Johnson, C. (2000). The parenting sense of competence scale: Evidence of a stable factor structure and validity. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 32, 251-261. Doi 10.1037/h0087122

DISCIPLINE WITH RESPECT is an evidence-based parenting approach.

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