Stress and Anxiety Among Parents of Children With Communication Disorders

Stress and Anxiety Among Parents of Children With Communication Disorders

Kadambari Naniwadekar (All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4955-0.ch008
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Parenting is a wonderful and rewarding experience, but in the case of parents of children with communication disorder, this experience is often accompanied with high levels of stress, due to difficulties, frustrations, and challenges that these parents face in everyday life. This chapter was carried out to find the status of stress in parents of children with communication disorder and also to find the levels of stress among mothers as well as fathers, and the level of support system available. The results revealed that most of the parents experience stress and anxiety in bringing up their child with communication disorder, although the stress being more in the mothers. Gender of the child also played a crucial role in determining the levels of stress. The results highlighted the fact that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder have a higher level of stress followed by parents of children with intellectual disability, multiple disability, and hearing impairment.
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The most valued relationships are found within the family. Family act as foundation for the child’s holistic development, socialization and formation of his/her beliefs. Parenting is a wonderful and rewarding experience, although mostly accompanied by high levels of stress because of the difficulties and challenges that the parents face in everyday life, this stress being even more in the case of parents of children with communication disorders (Hodapp, Ricci, Ly, & Fidler, 2003). How the parents react to stress depends on a variety of factors like individual, family and environmental factors. Some families may view this as intimidating, while some may emerge stronger in this process. When the parent feels inundated by the stress associated with bringing up a child with communication disorder, there will be negative implications on the child, the parents and the family as a whole. For instance, increased parental stress is associated with coercive parent-child interactions (Moes & Frea, 2000; Bor, Sanders, & Markie-Dadds, 2002), predicts drop-out from parent training interventions (Andra & Thomas 1998; Sanders, Markie-Dadds, Tully, & Bor, 2000; Schreibman 2000), and is linked with parental depression (Gray 2002; Vitaliano, Zhang, & Scanlan, 2003). In addition to that, heightened levels of stress can negatively influence a parent’s interaction with other family members and thereby increase the risk of family maladjustment (Turnbull & Ruef, 1996).

Parents can never fully brace themselves for the news that their child is different (Pueschel, Bernier, & Weidenman, 1988). Whether the diagnosis of a disability is known after birth or in the later years, family dreams and expectations change unexpectedly. Although there are no universal reactions to the stress of raising a child with disability, several researchers have noted that there are some similar patterns or stages that the parents face emotionally (Miller, 1994). In the Indian context, disability is still viewed in terms of a misfortune. The cultural beliefs present in the society about disability plays an imperative role in influencing the way in which the family perceives the condition of the child and the kind of measures it takes for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation (Sen,1988). Dalal and Pande (1999) in their research explored the cultural beliefs and attitudes of a rural Indian community towards physical disability. The results revealed fatalistic approaches and external dependence in families with disabled children. In the same study, the respondents also felt that the disabled member cannot do anything and just needed help and sympathy.

Various studies reveal that negative attitudes will affect the parents negatively and they often experience harmful psychological effects. Such extreme levels of stress lead to heightened negative health outcomes like depression and marital dissatisfaction. Parents of children with communication disorders are found to be emotionally unstable, experience constant grief, and psychological ill health. They are also prone to be at a higher risk for marital disputes and social seclusion. Most of the mothers of children with communication disorders also experience extreme moodiness and are more prone to illness. They are found to be intensely affected by the way their child is accepted or rejected by the society. Mothers have also described themselves as unable to pursue their personal goals and as having little free time (Holroyd,1974), and concurrently report ambivalence and grief over the amount of time devoted to the disabled child at their own expense along with that of the family.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Anxiety: A mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry or fear that is strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.

Depression: A mental health disorder characterized by constantly depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, leading to significant impairment in daily life.

Social Isolation: A state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and the society.

Family Support: The support of families to a member with a disability, which may include a child, an adult, or even the parent in the family.

Gender: The state of being male or female that is typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.

Communication Disorders: Any disorder that affects an individual’s ability to comprehend, perceive, or use language and speech to engage in conversation effectively with others.

Disability: An impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these and which affects the activities of daily living in one or the other way.

Stress: A feeling of strain and pressure or any unpleasant emotion and feeling.

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