Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




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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