Preschool children with intellectual disability

Eisenhower, A. S., Baker, B. L., & Blacher, J. (2005). Preschool children with intellectual disability: syndrome specificity, behaviour problems, and maternal well-being. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 49, 657-671. 

This study’s purpose was to discover how specific syndromes of intellectual disability relate to the presence of behavior problems in children and also how they relate to the psychological well-being of the mothers of those children. Two-hundred fifteen families were included in the study. Each family had at least one child age 3 to 5 either with or without developmental delay. Different syndromes present among these children included Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and other undifferentiated developmental delays. Children without developmental delays were included to serve as a negative control group. The following conclusions were made from data collected from mothers of the study families:

  • In general the rate of problem behavior is higher in children with some type intellectual disability (about 38.2%) than in children without intellectual disabilities (about 10.3%).
  • The presence of behavior problems in the children was highest in children with cerebral palsy, followed by children with autism, and children with undifferentiated delays. Children with Down syndrome showed the lowest severity of behavior problems of all syndrome groups studied.

  • With the exception of the autism and cerebral palsy groups, the relative negative impact on the psychological well-being of the mothers in the different groups seems to conform to the relative presence of behavior problems in those same groups.

  • Although children with cerebral palsy displayed the highest severity of problem behaviors, mother’s of children with autism reported the greatest negative impact on themselves due to their experiences with their children with developmental delays. This suggests that the differential impacts on the mother’s stress levels is caused by some other aspect(s) of the cerebral palsy and autism phenotypes rather than by the behavior problems exhibited by their children.