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Stress and coping in families caring for children with severe mental handicap

Quine, Lyn (1989) Stress and coping in families caring for children with severe mental handicap. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94595) (KAR id:94595)


The thesis presents a longitudinal study of a representative sample from two health districts of 200 children with severe mental handicap and their families. The broad aim of the study was to investigate the impact on family functioning of caring at home for a child with mental handicap. We adopt a life-span perspective. First, the skills, behaviour and abilities of the children were assessed at school or social education centre by trained interviewers who questioned the teacher or care assistant who knew each child best. Secondly, the person responsible for the day-to-day care of the child (usually the mother) was interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Three years later, 178 children were reassessed and their carers reinterviewed. The study examines key points in the child’s and family’s life cycle. We discuss parents’ reactions to and satisfaction with the way the news of the handicapping condition was first given; the child, family and social factors associated with caring for a young handicapped child which make mothers vulnerable to stress; the effects on family functioning; and the impact on the parents’ marriage. We investigate the child, environmental and social correlates of child behaviour problems and present a longitudinal analysis showing the antecedent risk factors for poor outcome. We examine sleep disturbance, a particularly stressful aspect of child behaviour, and show that poor communication skills play a critical role in the development of disturbed sleeping patterns. We present a longitudinal analysis of maternal stress and coping, identifying the child variables and coping resources which predict change in maternal stress over time. Finally, we focus on the transition to adult life of the teenagers in our sample, examining the differences between them and the younger children, the particular concerns of their mothers, and the preparation given at schools and social education centres in the development of skills for independent living. Throughout the thesis we draw attention to both theoretical and practical issues.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94595
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 12 May 2023 13:21 UTC
Last Modified: 12 May 2023 13:21 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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