Date of Award

Winter 1997

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services--Health Services

Committee Director

Laurel Garzon

Committee Member

Brenda S. Nichols

Committee Member

Clare Houseman

Committee Member

Lindsay Rettie


The purpose of the study was to identify and describe the coping processes used by mothers of triplets. Using a descriptive design, interpersonal comparisons of 92 mothers of triplets attending a national meeting of families of higher order multiples were made. Variables, in addition to sociodemographic characteristics, included coping processes, levels of depression, perceived availability of social support, and current stress levels. Coping processes were measured using the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (Folkman & Lazarus, 1988), derived from their cognitive-phenomenological theory of stress and coping. Level of depression was measured using the Zung Self-rating Depression Scale (Zung, 1965). Perceived availability of social support was measured by the Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey (Sherbourne & Stewart, 1991). Current level of stress was measured by the Derogatis Stress Profile (Derogatis, 1980). Results from these self-report instruments were analyzed using descriptive statistics in order to describe the sample and to determine whether significant correlations between the variables existed.

Results indicated that the subjects were all married, with a mean age of 36.4 years, the majority were college-educated, and had triplets ranging in ages from 8 months to 12 years. Mothers were found to use a variety of coping processes in dealing with the stresses related to the mothering of triplets, supporting the theoretical framework.

Planful problem-solving was used most often with escape-avoidance used least. Current levels of stress were described by the mothers as being derived from a variety of sources in their lives, with time pressure most highly rated. The majority of mothers scored within the normal range for depression. Subjects perceived levels of social support from a variety of sources. Statistically significant correlations were found to exist between level of depression and current level of stress as well as between levels of stress, depression, and perceived levels of social support. Coping processes were also found to be related to the other variables. Recommendations for further study included evaluating the nature of interrelatedness of the variables, and through the use of a comparison group.