Date of Conferral



Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)




Henry Cellini


The problem examined in this phenomenological study is how single African American parents and caregivers perceive the impact of caregiver stress on communications, trust, and intent to negotiate with school personnel after participation in their child’s annual IEP eligibility determination meeting. This research is important because parents’ and caregivers’ perceptions of their IEP meeting engagement may identify and reduce impediments to the formation of successful alliances with school personnel. Attribution and self-determination theories were used to analyze, interpret, and codify the experiences of study participants. Purposive sampling was used to select 18 single, African American parents and caregivers for participation. Four key research questions explored perceptions of how caregiver stress impacted participant engagement with school personnel during the IEP meeting. Results showed that parents and caregivers who were determined to be competent advocates for their child and who were autonomous in their insistence on IEP team accountability, effectively negotiated and communicated with the IEP team. Contrarily, those who felt ineffective in advocating made more negative attributions of the team and distrusted the team’s willingness to negotiate or communicate with them in good faith. School personnel have opportunities to create in school and community-based programs designed to improve relationships with less self-determined parents and caregivers while making the IEP meeting experience less intimidating through trainings about IEP meeting policies and processes resulting in positive social change.