The links between stressful family life events and psychological vulnerability in children with learning disabilities

Rasa Barkauskienė


During the past several decades psychological research has indicated that exposure to stressful family life events is strongly associated with psychological vulnerability evidenced by maladaptive behaviors in children. The focus of the present study was to shed light on the relationship between a number and particular family life events and psychosocial functioning in learning disabled children considering child’s gender. Subjects under study were primary school children attending general education schools in Vilnius. The subgroup of children with learning disabilities was drawn from the data base of Vilnius psychologicalpedagogical service where they were evaluated by multidisciplinary team because of primary learning problems in schools and diagnosed as having learning disability. The control group – average achieving children – was randomly selected by teachers’ ratings on child’s achievement from the classes that contained children with learning disabilities. The results revealed that family life events can be treated as reliable correlate of psychosocial adjustment problems in children with learning disabilities. Firstly, the relevance of a number of family life events must be stressed: higher number of family life events is associated with higher levels of problem behaviors in children with learning disabilities. Secondly, child’s gender plays a significant role in this association: learning disabled boys responded to a number of stressful family life events with a larger spectrum of maladaptive behaviors. Thirdly, different associations for children with learning disabilities and average achieving peers with regard to particular family life events were obtained. Parent-child separation appears to have the most consistent relation to psychosocial problems in boys and girls with learning disabilities while emotional and behavioral difficulties in their peers were related to several family life events – health problems in child and other family members, alcohol abuse, unemployment and financial strains in family.


stressful life events; learning disabilities; behavioral and emotional problems

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"Social Work" ISSN online 2029-2775 / ISSN print 1648-4789