Mothers of children and adolescents with intellectual disability: social and economic situation, mental health status, and the self-assessed social and psychological impact of the child's difficulties

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2003 May-Jun;47(Pt 4-5):385-99. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2788.2003.00498.x.


Background: Few large-scale studies with well-constructed samples have compared the socio-economic circumstances and social impact of raising a child with intellectual disability (ID). The aims of the present paper were to: (1) compare the socio-economic situation of mothers raising a child with ID to that of mothers of non-ID children; (2) assess the contribution of raising a child with ID to negative psychological outcomes for mothers; and (3) identify variables associated with negative psychological outcomes among mothers of children with ID.

Methods: The 1999 Office for National Statistics survey, Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in Great Britain, 1999, collected information on a multistage stratified random sample of 10 438 children between 5 and 15 years of age across 475 postal code sectors in England, Scotland and Wales. Secondary analysis was undertaken of the social and economic circumstances, and stress reported by 245 mothers of sampled children with ID and a comparison group of 9 481 mothers of sampled children who did not have ID.

Results: The results indicate that: (1) families supporting a child with ID were significantly economically disadvantaged when compared with families supporting a child who did not have ID; (2) when compared with mothers of sampled children who did not have ID, mothers of sampled children with ID reported that their child's difficulties resulted in greater social and psychological impact; (3) having a child with ID marginally reduced the odds of mothers screening positive for having mental health problems (once all other variables were taken into account); and (4) among mothers of children with ID, mental health problems were associated with the child's difficulties having a greater social impact, having a boy, the child experiencing more than one potentially stressful life event, poverty, receipt of means-tested welfare benefits and 'unhealthy' family functioning.

Conclusions: These results highlight the importance of combating poverty among children with ID and their families, and the need to develop more complex models of understanding and intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disabled Children*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires