Families and intellectual disability

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Purpose of review

This review includes recent research pertaining to family functioning when there is a child or adult offspring with intellectual disability. The purpose was to broaden the examination of families research from an adjustment/coping perspective to consideration of more contextual factors (environment, culture, service delivery).

Recent findings

Studies continue to focus on parental well being, with parents of children with intellectual disability still showing evidence of stress and depression. Increasing evidence is accruing, however, that child behavior problems or specific syndrome more directly relate to poorer parental well being. On the other hand, parenting behaviors also contribute to child behaviors, with studies highlighting the importance of parenting context and dynamics. Interventions focus on child behaviors as well as on stress reduction for parents. Finally, the continued involvement of parents across the lifespan of their young adult with intellectual disability is apparent from studies of quality of life and living arrangements.


The well being of family members continues to be an area of interest, with special emphasis on siblings and cultural context. Methodological rigor in families research also continues to increase, with diverse methodologies represented. There is still a need, however, for the development of theoretical models within which to frame future research on topics such as siblings, as well as both negative and positive impact on families.

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