Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor



This paper provides an overview of parental stress and depression in families with

children diagnosed with severe cognitive disabilities. Previous research on parents with

children with disabilities was reviewed. Studies were selected from peer-reviewed journal

articles that specifically included children with an IQ below 70 or a noted cognitive

impairment of a severe degree. Children in the study had to be living at home and below

the age of 21. Significant levels of stress and depression were not found consistently in

the studies reviewed. Parents of children with disabilities did report levels of stress and

depression above the control groups in the studies or normative samples when available

for comparison. The review also looked at the relationship between having a child with a

severe disability and the parents' martial relationship. Little support was found in the

articles reviewed for the hypothesis that having a child with a severe disability results in

dysfunction in the marital relationship. The significance of social support, both informally

and formally, was noted in several articles reviewed. The need for continued and

additional support and intervention for families is discussed. Conclusions and

recommendations for future research are presented as well as implications for mental

health professionals and school practitioners working with families with children with

severe disabilities.

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