Attributions of stability, control and responsibility: how parents of children with intellectual disabilities view their child's problematic behaviour and its causes

Myrthe Jacobs, Lisa Woolfson, Simon C. Hunter

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Background: Children with intellectual disabilities (ID) have high rates of behaviour problems. The aim of this study was to explore parents’ causal beliefs and attributions for general problematic child behaviour in children with different aetiologies of ID. Materials and Methods: Ten parents of children with ID participated in interviews about their child’s problematic behaviour. Results: Thematic analysis revealed that parents viewed their child’s problematic behaviour as caused by the child’s ID, by environmental shortcomings, and by other factors unrelated to the ID. Some causes were viewed as stable and uncontrollable and others as unstable and controllable. Additionally, parents showed a strong sense of responsibility for child behaviour. Conclusions: Parents of children with ID do not solely interpret their child’s problematic behaviour through the ID but incorporate the environment and non-ID-related causes and attributions which may help to promote more effective parenting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-70
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number1
Early online date5 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • parenting
  • intellectual disability
  • child behaviour
  • causal attributions
  • causal beliefs
  • thematic analysis

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