Though psychological studies reveal that children with learning disabilities are at greater risk for behavioral and emotional disturbances than other children are little is known about factors related to behavioral and emotional difficulties in these children. It has been claimed that the psychological difficulties faced by children with learning problems are not necessarily simple linear correlates of their academic deficits, social information processing or organic dysfunctions. Recently a need to explore a role of family on behavioral – emotional problems in learning disabled children has been stressed. Maternal expectations and child’s goodness of fit within these expectations, mother’s involvement with child’s learning as well as mother’s disappointment and other emotional reactions toward a child have been hypothesized as contributing to the level of emotional and behavioral problems in children with learning disabilities.
The aim of this study was to explore the interplay between behavioral and emotional problems and mother – child interactions, as measured by child’s goodness of fit level with maternal expectations, mother’s positive feelings, negative feelings toward child and feelings of dissatisfaction, involvement with child’s learning (support for homework, negative control of homework, encouragement of child, mother – child discussions about school and learning activities) in children with learning disabilities. The experimental group consisted of 102 children with learning disabilities. Subjects in the control group were average chieving children selected from the same classes that contained learning disabled children. Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL 4/18; Achenbach, 1991) was used to collect data on children’s emotional and behavioral problems. Child’s goodness of fit within maternal expectations was assessed via Goodness of Fit Questionnaire (Feagans et al., 1991). Measures on mother’s feelings toward child and involvement with child’s learning were obtained via Scale of Parents’ Feelings toward child and Involvement with Child Learning Questionnaire, respectively.
Comparative analysis of behavioral – emotional problems in the groups revealed that children with learning disabilities scored significantly higher on internalizing problems and total problems score but not on externalizing problems. As it was expected groups differed on mother – child interaction aspects: children with learning disabilities had lower goodness of fit level with maternal expectations, their mothers reported higher levels of negative feelings and more intensive dissatisfaction with themselves. In contrary, positive feelings did not differ between groups. Mothers of learning disabled children were more involved with their children learning: they provided more support, encouragement and negative control. Mother – child interactions variables had significant associations with problem behaviors in children with learning disabilities. Child’s level of goodness of fit with maternal expectations was significantly related to all CBCL 4/18 scores indicating that children with poorer fit had more behavioral – emotional problems. Mother’s negative feelings were the second consistent correlate of behavioral – emotional problems in both groups. As it was predicted, measures of mother’s involvement also correlated with problem behaviors in children with learning disabilities. Specifically, negative control was related to total problem scores on CBCL 4/18, and higher scores on mother – child discussions subscale were associated with lower scores on internalizing problems, externalizing problems and total problems.
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