Effectiveness of combined stress control and behaviour management sessions for parents who have a child with a learning disability
Patterson, Alexis A.
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Objectives: There is body of evidence that suggests parents who have a child with a learning disability experience increased stress levels. In addition, research has found a bidirectional relationship between parental stress and child challenging behaviour. Other investigations in this area have found parental stress to be a significant predictor of intervention outcome, and it has been suggested that it should be targeted prior to any child focused intervention. The aim of the current study is to examine the effectiveness of an intervention that targets both parental stress and child challenging behaviour, in families who have a child with a learning disability Design & Method: The study employed a questionnaire based, quantitative, within and between groups methodology. The design included two groups, both parents of children with learning disabilities. Group one, attended three sessions targeting parental stress and three on child challenging behaviour and completed measures on parental stress, mood, coping and child behaviour. Group two, received ‘treatment as normal’ and completed the same measures. Results: Correlations were conducted to look at the relationship between parental stress, coping, mood and child behaviour. The results partially supported a relationship between parental stress, child challenging behaviour and coping. The ANOVA revealed a significant decrease in anxiety scores for the intervention group over time. The results provide some support the effectiveness of the sessions in reducing parental stress but not child challenging behaviour. Conclusions: The findings provide some support for the use of a brief intervention for parents who have a child with a learning disability. The results indicate high levels of stress and child challenging behaviour, which has been linked to increased risk of mental health problems in both child and parents. The current intervention may be appropriative for families with lower levels of stress and behaviour problems, and alternative approaches may be more suitable to families with chronic difficulties.