Carers' expressed emotion, appraisal of behavioural problems and stress in children attending schools for learning disabilities

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BackgroundExpressed emotion (EE) has been found to be high in families with children suffering from conduct disorder as well as a variety of childhood psychiatric disorders. Expressed emotion has been associated with high levels of stress in carers. However, behavioural problems in children do not automatically lead to stress in carers. carers' beliefs and behaviour could affect how they appraise and cope with their child's behaviour. Furthermore, the perceived adequacy of social support can also be an important factor in determining the family's level of stress. The study investigates the relationship between EE variables and carers' appraisal and coping with the child's behaviour, stress and social support.MethodsForty-seven carers were recruited from schools for moderate to severe learning disabilities. Carers filled in questionnaires and took part in the Camberwell Family Interview for EE status. carers' EE status was determined by a rater blind to the carers' questionnaires scores.ResultsThere was no difference between high and low EE groups in the descriptive information of the child's independence, communication skills, or the frequency of behavioural problems. However, high EE carers appraised more of their children's behaviour as definite problems and their available social support to be less adequate. High warmth was found to relate to more positive reappraisal and less escape-avoidance coping. A multiple regression analysis indicated that carers' EE, psychological well-being, appraisal of their children's behaviour, their children's communication skills and respite usage predicted 62% of the variance in their perceived stress scores.ConclusionIt is important to consider optimal use of respite care and psychosocial intervention to encourage positive appraisal and problem solving.

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