Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Vey M. Nordquist

Committee Members

Brian K. Barber, Julia A. Malia, John G. Orme


The purpose of the present study was to assess mothers’ perceptions of family- centered practices and how these practices influenced their feelings of empowerment. The review of literature included examining the basis for family-centered practices and the conceptualization of empowerment. Twelve studies that reported a relationship between family-centered practices and empowerment were reviewed in detail.

The current study was conducted as a component of the Pathways to Family Empowerment Project, whose purpose is to evaluate service delivery and family empowerment of Tennessee’s Early Intervention System. The collected data were responses of 370 mothers to the Family-Centered Program Rating Scale (FamPRS) and the Family Empowerment Scale (FES). The relationship among the factors was examined using both correlational analyses and structural equation modeling (SEM) techniques.

Factor analyses produced two factors for each instrument, which were labeled Partnership Building Communication and Sensitive Service Delivery from the FamPRS and, from the FES, Personal Competence and System Competence. These factors were found to be significantly correlated to each other. SEM results indicated that the data fit a model in which family-centered practices used by service coordinators are significantly related to mothers’ empowerment outcomes. Mothers reported they were more empowered to seek services for themselves and their children with disabilities than they were for advocating for better services through the early intervention system.

The results are discussed in light of findings of previous studies. In addition, explanations are discussed for the similar but more specific relationships found in this study between family-centered practices and empowerment. Finally, future directions for research and practice are presented.

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