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Causal attributions for misbehaviour in children with LD : unpacking parent perceptions of child control

Jacobs, Myrthe and Woolfson, Lisa (2011) Causal attributions for misbehaviour in children with LD : unpacking parent perceptions of child control. In: Seattle Club Conference on Research in People with Learning Disabilities, 2011-12-08.

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Background: Children with learning disabilities (LD) are at risk for developing behaviour problems. Research suggests that parents’ causal attributions for child behaviour are an important factor related to parenting strategies and child behaviour problems. The present study investigated relationships between these three factors in parents of children with LD in comparison to parents of typically developing (TD) children. Additionally, prior research on parent perceptions of child controllability over misbehaviour suggests that both high and low levels of control have disadvantageous effects on parenting. Therefore, the study specifically focused on examining controllability further by separating attributions of control from responsibility, blame and intent. Method: Eighty parents of children with LD and eighty parents of TD children aged six to twelve completed questionnaires. The Written Analogue Questionnaire measured parents’ attributions, the Child Behaviour Checklist assessed behaviour problems and the Parenting Scale measured parents’ use of ineffective strategies. Results: Parents of children with LD reported more behaviour problems in their child and saw these as more stable than parents of TD children. Additionally, parents of children with LD attributed less control, responsibility, blame and intent towards their child for misbehaviour than parents of TD children. While blame was positively related to overreactive parenting, responsibility was negatively related to lax parenting. Conclusions: Perceptions of child controllability need to be further unpacked as they differentially impact on parenting strategies. Overall, results will advance understanding of how parents perceive behaviour problems in their child with LD and how families can be supported to reduce these problems.