Parenting children with disabilities


The McKay School of Education offered a grant to conduct a meta-analysis study about parenting styles of children with developmental disabilities.

The study was published by Elsevier in the journal called “Research in Developmental Disabilities.”

Tina Dyches, associate professor at the Department of Counseling, Psychology and Special Education, along with other researchers that include faculty and students across campus, worked hard to complete the study. The meta-analysis study consisted of analyzing currently available research on parenting styles of children with developmental disabilities. The research group was able to find 14 studies that qualified for analysis, and the study helped to shed light on this demographic.

“This type of study is useful to the field because it brings together an analysis of contradictory and/or complementary research that has been published on the topic, and gives an effect size of what has been studied from various researchers,” Dyches said. “It is more powerful than taking results from one study here, and one study there, because it analyzes all of the eligible research.”

Kara Duraccio, a senior from Homedale, Idaho majoring in psychology, was in charge of the coding process that included searching through thousands of articles that related to parenting children with disabilities. Duraccio filtered through about 10,000 articles, reading about 500 abstracts and 200 complete articles while searching for the criteria the research team had set for the study. Toward the end, Durracio said there were about 30 articles used.

“At first I felt it was a really daunting task, but you really get into the groove of it and it’s really rewarding when you find articles that are applicable to the study at hand,” Durracio said.

Durracio enjoyed working on the study and felt she gained insight into parenting children with disabilities while developing valuable research skills.

“Before the study I felt that it could be a hardship and trial and would cause strain on the family,” Durracio said. “But from the research, I learned that although it is still a challenge, it brings the family close, and I think that’s beautiful.”

Tim Smith, another faculty member at the Department of Counseling, Psychology and Special Education, worked with Dyches and the meta-analysis team in conducting the research. Smith feels that research in parenting is very important but there had been limited research that addressed positive parenting of children with disabilities.

“When a child has a disability, parents need to perform essential functions consistently,” Smith said. “Letting the child raise his or herself is not an option. Over-scheduling and pushing the child to meet your own definition of ‘success’ is not viable either. Rather, parents of children with disabilities come to know and love their children for who they are, not because of what they do.”

The results of the study verified that positive parenting on children with disabilities results in overall benefits for the children as well as significant pay-offs for the parents and family.

“The outcomes in the children included greater independence, language skills, emotional expression and social interaction with adults and peers and improved temperament,” Dyches said.

Dyches noted that historically a lot of research used to focus on negative effects of raising children with disabilities; recently there has been more research investigating the strengths of raising children with disabilities.

“Some of the recent research we have conducted here at BYU indicates that some of these strengths are found in siblings who are cooperative, empathetic, kind and involved in the life of the child with disabilities,” Dyches said.

Although there are certainly challenges and uncertainties that come with parenting children with disabilities, it is important to find the balance in parenting styles to strive for the authoritative parenting style. The three types of parenting styles mentioned in the study are permissive, authoritarian and authoritative. Permissive parents tend to be non-demanding and accepting. Authoritarian parents tend to try and control children in trying to maintain respect for authority and maintain obedience. The Authoritative parent tends to be rational and respects the child while providing required discipline.

“When parents balance the demands placed on their children with empathy, love and nurturing according to the child’s developmental and social needs, then this authoritative parenting style is more likely to be associated with positive outcomes in the children,” Dyches said.

The complete study is available on under the title, “Positive parenting of children with developmental disabilities: A meta analysis.”

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