What is it about?

In this study, we present the results of a data collection process that took the first author to travel around distant Ecuadorian locations in the province of El Oro. Participants were 111 mothers of preschool children with intellectual disabilities and 273 mothers of preschool children without intellectual disabilities. Their children's ages ranged between 3 months to 6 years (mean age was 3 years old). Traditionally, the study of parents and families of children with intellectual disabilities has underline the negative impact that disability has in the family. But, there is a growing recognition of the need to identify family and parental resources to cope with the fact that one of their children has a disability. We studied family cohesion (the closeness between family members and the degree of autonomy that they experience in the family), family adaptability (the capacity to change rules in response to developmental and situational challenges), family satisfaction (their contentment with the way their family works in terms of cohesion and adaptability) and mothers' coping responses, the control that they perceived that they had in relation to something that had happened to their child and the degree of stress they experienced in that situation. Coping responses are cognitive, emotional and regulatory responses that people display to face stressful situations. Coping responses may direct to solve the problem or to avoid it. What we found was that mothers of children with intellectual disabilities perceived less stress and more control over the stressful situations related to their child, and adopted more coping strategies directed to solve problems compared to mothers of children without intellectual disabilities. The mothers' family satisfaction was positively related to the coping strategies that try to solve problems and to family cohesion and adaptability, and negatively related to avoidant coping strategies—regardless of whether their children had a disability or not.

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Why is it important?

There is not much research about families of preschool children in Ecuador and, in particular, studies that compare the functioning of families where there are children with disabilities and families where there are not children with disabilities.


This study contributes to a more positive view of families of children with disabilities centred in the undeniable resources that they display and the mothers' capacity to use copying strategies that directly address difficulties as they appear. This does not imply minimizing the impact that intellectual disabilities have on mothers and the family system, but it does imply underlying the importance of identifying resources and paying attention to the capacity of individuals and family systems to cope and adapt.

Dr. Silvia López-Larrosa
Universidade da Coruna

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Ecuadorian mothers of preschool children with and without intellectual disabilities: Individual and family dimensions, Research in Developmental Disabilities, October 2020, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2020.103735.
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