Severe emotional disturbance (SED) is widely used as a classification in the school system and for diagnostic and treatment purposes in the mental health system. The SED child exhibits emotional distress and behavioral difficulties and lower than normal functioning. The symptoms become more evident during the transition to middle school when school performance becomes the focus of parental concern. SED children are more likely to experience school failure than other children (Mattison & Felix, 1997) despite average-range intelligence scores (Quinn & Epstein, 1998). School difficulties can manifest themselves in increased absences and low grades. Families of children with SED exhibit higher rates of mental health problems, drug use, and violence (Epstein et al., 1995, Farmer et al., 1999; Quinn & Epstein, 1998) than families of children without SED. The parallel difficulties in the child's school performance and parents' problems suggest that the SED child and the family are engaged in a reciprocal pattern of behavior (Minuchin, 1974). A child's school performance is likely to affect the way in which a family functions and the way the caregiver perceives the burden. This research considered the caregiver's social supports, functioning of the family, perceived burden of the SED child on the family, the family's need for community resources and family characteristics in families of nine- to eleven-year-old SED children in relation to school performance. A secondary analysis of data collected for a longitudinal study of children with SED, this was a descriptive and correlational study (N = 120) using baseline data and information collected from school records. Findings are that for these families increased caregiver's social supports and lower perceived burden of the SED child on the family and the family need for fewer community resources are related to high attendance levels. Levels of family functioning, were not significantly related to school attendance. In addition, one control variable, lower caregiver education was related to higher rates of attendance. None of the study variables were significantly related to school grades.
Thesis (Ph.D. in Social Welfare) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2003. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 64-04, Section: A, page: 1406. Adviser: Roberta Sands.