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J Intellect Disabil Res. 2005 Dec;49(Pt 12):889-904.

Empowerment in parents of school-aged children with and without developmental disabilities.

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  • 1Queen's University, Department of Psychology, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



Despite the widespread use of the term 'empowerment' in clinical literature to describe both a desirable process and the outcome of service delivery, the term remains more of a theoretical than practical construct. This study examined the factors that contribute to empowerment in parents of school-aged children with and without developmental disabilities (DD) using the Double ABCX model of family adaptation contrasted with the linear ACBX model.


Parents of children with (n = 100, 97% mothers) and without (n = 100, 98% mothers) DD completed questionnaires relating to child behaviour problems, parent stress and well-being, and formal and informal support. Structural equation modelling was used


Parents of children with DD reported more child behaviour problems, more stress, less well-being and more social support than parents of children without DD. Structural equation modelling supported the ACBX model for both groups. A linear relationship was found in which parent well-being and resources mediated the relationship between the stressor (child behaviour problems) and the outcome (empowerment).


The results of the current study support Hastings and Taunt's assertion in 2002, in that empowerment was adequately explained using a traditional model of family functioning. The significant prediction offered by the parent's resources points to the need to deliver services in a manner that is more family-centred. In the education system, this means providing parents with clear messages regarding the schools goals, clarifying the parent's rights and responsibilities, including the parent in planning and decision making, respecting their knowledge as caregivers and supporting their hopes for their child.

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