A unique inter-relationship exists between a child with learning disabilities and their
environment. As the primary care giver, the mother of a child with learning disabilities is
considered to experience significant stress in relation to caring for her child. This study
investigates whether mothers of children with LD experience more stress than mothers of
children without LD and identifies the exacerbating and moderating factors associated with the
mother's experience of stress.
A total of 30 mothers of children with learning disabilities and 25 mothers of children without
learning disabilities took part in the study. All participants lived in the Scottish Borders, a rural
area with a population of 106 000. A questionnaire design was employed and data were
collected during a semi-structured interview lasting approximately 30 minutes.
Results found that mothers of children with learning disabilities reported significantly higher
levels of stress than mothers of children without learning disabilities. The number of
challenging behaviours displayed by their child and maternal depression significantly
exacerbated their experience of stress, while the perceived helpfulness of social support
networks was a moderating factor.
In conclusion, therefore, mothers of children with learning disabilities were significantly more
likely to experience stress than mothers of children without learning disabilities. Contributing
factors included, challenging behaviour and maternal depression, and stress was moderated by
the presence of social support networks.
This study will inform clinicians of the difficulties inherent in bringing up a child with learning
disabilities, especially in relation to stress experienced by the child's mother and the factors
contributing to her experience. This in turn will inform clinicians that a child with 1 earning
disabilities cannot be treated in isolation, and that services need to be arranged to meet the
unique needs of each individual and their family.