Psychological flexibility of parents of children with disabilities: a systematic literature review

Background

  • The World Health Organization estimates that over 1 billion people worldwide live with a disability. Around 100 million of these are children.
  • There are different models of disability: medical or social. The social model defines disability based on societal barriers, not just impairments. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health uses a multidimensional model incorporating both medical and social aspects.
  • Parents of children with disabilities face many challenges, including stigma and distrust of professionals. This can lead to stress, burnout, depression, and lower well-being. Striking a work-life balance can be more difficult for these parents than for parents of typically developing children.
  • While much research has examined the psychological states and contributing factors of parents of children with disabilities, little research has explored their psychological flexibility. Given the benefits of psychological flexibility for well-being, more study is needed on this for parents of children with disabilities.

Three major themes emerged from the data

(1) psychological flexibility is associated with various aspects of mental health;

(2) psychological flexibility is associated with parental functioning in caring for children with a disability;

(3) acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) based interventions effectively enhance the psychological flexibility of parents of children with disabilities

 

Conclusions

The study concludes that psychological flexibility is extremely relevant to disability studies and should be further explored in relation to different parental well-being and functioning aspects. Professionals are encouraged to incorporate principles of acceptance and commitment therapy into their work with parents of children with disabilities.

Gur, A. & Reich, A. (2023). Psychological flexibility of parents of children with disabilities: A systematic literature review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 136.

 

Download paper here

 

 

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