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J Intellect Disabil Res. 2010 Jun;54(6):501-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01269.x. Epub 2010 Apr 20.

Maternal responses to child frustration and requests for help in dyads with fragile X syndrome.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Center for Development and Learning, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7255, USA.



Variability in behaviour displayed by children with fragile X syndrome (FXS) may be partially attributable to environmental factors such as maternal responsivity. The purpose of this study was to explore variables associated with maternal behaviour during a task designed to elicit frustration in their children with FXS.


Forty-six mother-child dyads, in which the child had full-mutation FXS, were observed in their homes during a task designed to elicit frustration in the child. Each child was given a wrong set of keys and asked to open a box to retrieve a desired toy. Mothers were provided with the correct set of keys and instructed to intervene when they perceived their child was getting too frustrated. Child-expressed frustration and requests for help and maternal behaviours (comforting, negative control, and encouraging/directing) were observed and coded. Maternal variables (e.g. depression, stress, education levels), child variables (e.g. autistic behaviours, age, medication use) and child behaviours (frustration, requests for help) were explored as predictors of maternal behaviour.


Almost all mothers intervened to help their children and most used encouraging/directing behaviours, whereas very few used comforting or negative control. Child age and child behaviours during the frustrating event were significant predictors of encouraging/directing behaviours in the mothers. Children whose mothers reported higher depressive symptomology used fewer requests for help, and mothers of children with more autistic behaviours used more negative control.


The results of this study suggest that child age and immediate behaviours are more strongly related to maternal responsivity than maternal traits such as depression and stress.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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