OBJECTIVES: This study examined parental perceptions of behaviours that challenge (CB) in their adult children with intellectual disability (ID), and explored whether perceptions mediated associations between CB and parental psychological distress.
DESIGN: A within-group correlational design was employed.
METHODS: Sixty-five parents reported on individuals with genetic syndromes and ID who had chronic CB. Parents completed the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised (IPQ-R) adapted to measure perceptions of self-injury, aggression or property destruction, alongside assessments of parental locus of control, attributions about behaviour, parental psychological distress, and CB.
RESULTS: A high proportion of parents evidenced anxiety and depression at clinically significant levels (56.9% and 30.8%, respectively). Contrary to predictions, psychological distress was not significantly associated with CB. The perception that the adult with ID exerted control over the parent's life mediated the association between CB and parental psychological distress. Few parents endorsed operant reinforcement as a cause of CB (< 10%).
CONCLUSIONS: The high levels of psychological distress in parents is notable and of concern. Further research should consider the reasons why parents have causal attributions that might be inconsistent with contemporary interventions.
PRACTITIONER POINTS: Parents experience high levels of psychological distress while supporting adults with ID who engage in chronic behaviours that challenge. A stronger belief that the adult with ID exerts control over the parent's life may mediate an association between CB exhibited by the individual with ID and parental psychological distress. Few parents endorsed operant reinforcement as a cause of behaviours that challenge.
- challenging behaviour
- intellectual disability
- self-regulatory model