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Title: The loss of the healthy child : exploring the relationship between mothers' early attachment relationships and their reaction to their child's learning disability
Author: Fletcher, H.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2004
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Abstract:
The distress experienced by parents, on learning that their child has a diagnosis of a learning disability, has been well documented. Goldberg, Magrill, Hale et al. (1995) proposed that parents go through a process of grieving the loss of the healthy or perfect child to whom they expected to give birth. Some parents appear able to resolve loss and trauma surrounding their child's condition fairly quickly, whilst others continue to experience difficulty for many years. This study explored the relationship between mothers' states of mind with respect to early attachment relationships and their reaction to discovering their child has a learning disability. Forty three mothers of children with learning disabilities (aged 5-12 years), were interviewed using the Adult Attachment Interview and the Reaction to Diagnosis Interview. Data was also collected regarding recent stressful life events (using part of the Parenting Stress Index), mothers' symptoms of psychopathology (using the SCL-90) and their networks of social support. The results of the study indicated that less than half of the group of mothers were resolved regarding their child's diagnosis. Mothers who received social support from their families were significantly more likely to be resolved regarding their child's diagnosis. Mothers who were unresolved regarding their child's diagnosis reported experiencing a significantly higher number of recent stressful life events, and had received their child's diagnosis more recently, than mothers who were resolved. There were no associations between mothers' states of mind with respect to attachment and their resolution of loss and trauma surrounding their child's learning disability. The findings of this study indicated that the experience of proximal loss and trauma regarding the child's learning disability over-powers mothers' attachment systems and reduces the impact of previous protective, or deleterious experiences in the mothers' lives. Clinical implications are discussed, including the importance of parents being given clear information regarding diagnosis and prognosis of their child's learning disability. The findings provide support for developing services which work within the wider family system, as opposed to more child-focused interventions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.679927  DOI: Not available
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