Family well-being and disabled children: a psychosocial model of disability-related child behaviour problems

Br J Health Psychol. 2004 Feb;9(Pt 1):1-13. doi: 10.1348/135910704322778687.


Background: When parents receive a diagnosis that their child is disabled, many families adjust to this healthily and cope well, but others do not. Feelings of hopelessness, social isolation of the family within the community and child behaviour problems have all been reported. While utilization of social support systems is well documented in the literature as being a significant factor in family coping and adjustment to the child's disability, less attention has been focused on the role of psychological factors.

Objective: This theoretical study aims to address this inbalance by integrating perspectives from a social model of disability with psychological research on the role of cognitive change in families' coping and adjustment to having a disabled child, and thus to produce a new psychosocial model of disability-related child behaviour problems.

Method: Negative societal attitudes to disability identified by a social model of disability are interpreted with respect to how they might translate to parent views of their disabled child within the family. Resultant parenting beliefs and their possible implications for family interaction, child behaviour and family health and well-being are explored within this new framework.

Conclusions: The psychosocial model of disability-related child behaviour problems provides a useful conceptual framework that has both clinical and research implications for professionals working with families with disabled children.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Disabled Children / psychology*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Health*
  • Humans
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Psychology