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Avoiding abuse: Empathy, realistic expectations key to raising a child with disabilities
Date:7/14/2014

ST. LOUIS Children with developmental disabilities are at higher risk for abuse and neglect from parents than children developing at a typical rate. So far, there was little evidence of specific parental behaviors that were associated with the risk, but a SLU study finds inappropriate expectations and lack of empathy play a significant role in triggering the risk.

Debra Zand, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and the principal investigator of the project, conducted the study in a small group of parents in St. Louis with 67 participants. Findings of the study were published in Clinical Pediatrics.

"We already know that children with delayed or developmental problems are at 1.7 times greater risk for abuse than children without disabilities. In this study, we wanted to investigate areas of a parent's behavior or reaction that might increase this risk," Zand said.

Zand and her team recruited a group of parents (diverse in race, education and income) with children who have disabilities. Her team found that parents expected more and empathized less than the parents of children who don't have disabilities. The other categories of behavioral measurement included attitudes about punishment, perceived parent-child roles, and oppressing children's power and independence.

"We found that parents have higher expectations from their children, which may result asking them to achieve at a much higher standard than they are capable," Zand said. "We also saw that parents don't empathize toward their child's needs as much as parents of typically developing children, which suggests that these parents may not understand the needs or feelings of their children."

This group of parents often feels stressed and frustrated when their kids don't perform according to their expectations, which may lead to abusive behavior against children, Zand explained.

She says it's acceptable to push
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Contact: Riya Anandwala
ranandwa@slu.edu
314-977-8018
Saint Louis University
Source:Eurekalert  

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Avoiding abuse: Empathy, realistic expectations key to raising a child with disabilities
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