Academic journal article Family Relations

Maternal Emotional Resources and Socio-Emotional Well-Being of Children with and without Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Family Relations

Maternal Emotional Resources and Socio-Emotional Well-Being of Children with and without Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

This study investigated cumulative vulnerability/protection models of individual-level factors (child's attachment relationship and sense of coherence -SOC) and family-level factors (mothers' emotional resources), as explaining differences in socio-emotional and behavioral adjustment among children with learning disabilities (LD) or typical development, age 8-12. Participants included 205 mother-child dyads (107 LD, 98 typical). Preliminary analyses indicated significant group differences on all but one child measure. SEM analysis revealed high fit between the theoretical model and empirical findings. Model components interrelated differently for the two populations. Outcomes accentuated the potentially meaningful role of mothers' affect and attachment for children's adjustment and children's mediating variables. Findings also highlighted children's attachment and SOC as mediating associations between maternal emotional resources and children's well-adjusted functioning.

Key Words: affect, attachment, learning disabilities, mothers socio-emotional.

It is widely recognized that children with learning disabilities (LD) evidence diverse socio-emotional and behavioral difficulties such as high levels of peer rejection and loneliness, high levels of depression and anxiety, more somatic problems, low levels of coping resources, low levels of self-efficacy, and more withdrawn behaviors than typically developing children (Al-Yagon, 2007; Culbertson, 1998; Dyson, 2003; Estell et al., 2008; Lackaye & Margalit, 2006). Studies analyzing the vulnerability and protective factors that may contribute to children's socio-emotional adjustment have addressed three major levels: the individual, family, and community (e.g., Campbell, 2003; Luthar & Cicchetti, 2000). Furthermore, researchers who proposed multiple vulnerability factor models have indicated that exposure to a larger number of risk factors dramatically increases children's adjustment problems (see Greenberg, Speltz, DeKlyen, & Jones, 2001, for a review). Data from these studies also underscored that children's developmental outcomes are better predicted by a combination of risk factors at different ecological levels than by individual factors alone.

Most research investigating children with LD, beyond documenting the disability's effects on academic functioning, however, has studied individual-level factors, highlighting the impact of children's personal characteristics on their vulnerability to socio-emotional and behavioral difficulties. For example, these studies suggest that internal neurological factors such as information-processing disorders, impulsivity, and performance deficits may not only affect these children's academic skills but may also affect their socio-emotional perceptions and interpretations that in turn, may impair their socio-emotional and behavioral skills (Culbertson, 1998; Spafford & Grosser, 1993).

In contrast, relatively few studies have examined family-level factors for children with LD, despite growing awareness regarding the impact of such factors, especially parental personal resources, on children's adjustment (Belsky, 1984; Belsky & Barends, 2002; Parke, 2004; van Bakel & Riksen-Walraven, 2002). Focusing on both low-risk and high-risk populations, previous studies have underscored that parental and familial characteristics (e.g., family cohesion, parenting behaviors, parental well-being, and parents' psychopathology) may impact parents' capacity to provide optimal care (Campbell, 2003; Greenberg, Speltz, & DeKlyen, 1993). Such familial and parental characteristics have been associated with maladjustment in childhood and adolescence (Campbell; Cummings, Davies, & Campbell, 2000).

To examine the contribution of vulnerability and protective factors at both the individual level and the family level (examination of the community level is beyond the scope of the present study), we tested a cumulative model for explaining well-adjusted functioning in children with LD compared to children without LD. …

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