Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Special Education: Emotional and Behavioral Disorders and the Underlying Causes

          My first post in special education topics will be about Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. In this post, I will focus on the various causes of this disability. Knowing the cause of a certain disability will enable us teachers to understand its nature and how can we intervene with this disability as early as possible after diagnosis. (You might be a bit surprised that this is actually a disability, different from the common disabilities that we have encountered like visual and hearing impairment, physical disability, etc)

Causes of Emotional Disturbances and Behavioral Disorders

I.                    Biological Factors
A.      Genetics
     Although the particular gene responsible for the trait has not been identified, its likelihood suggests that some emotional/behavioral disorders may be inherited
·         30% of fathers and 20% of mothers of children with ADHD have the disorder themselves (Copps, 1992)
·         Autism has 10-82% heritability
·         SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder) has 30-40% chances to be passed on the child
·         Children of schizophrenic individuals are far more likely to have schizophrenia, and among identical twins, even those raised apart, there is some incidence of schizophrenia. (Crabbe, McSwigan, and Kelknap, 1985)
B.      Psychoneurology
·         Neurologic disease like encephalitis
·         Imbalance in the neurotransmitter or chemical elements that affect the efficiency with which the brain functions (serotonine, catecholamine, dopamine, norepinephrine)
·         Underaroused central nervous system
·         Decreased cerebral blood flow
C.      Exposure to toxic metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel) and pesticides especially during pregnancy

II.                  Family Factors
A.      Family definition and structure
·         Single parenting
·         Divorced parents
·         Large families
B.      Family interactions
According to Reid and Patterson(1991), these include:
·         Lack of supervision
·         Erratic and punitive discipline
·         Low rate of positive interactions, high rates of negative interaction
·         Lack of interest and concern/neglect
·         Poor adult role models
·         Inconsistent expectations and rules
C.      Pressure affecting families
·         Parental stress
·         Poverty
·         Confusion and turmoil
D.      Child Abuse and Maltreatment
·         Htenden(1989) reported that maltreated children are often disruptive, defiant bullies which have frequent interpersonal confrontations with peers and teachers, [while others]are so compliant and concerned over meeting others’ standards that they rarely experience joy or satisfaction
·         Mullen et al(1996) reported that a history of any form of abuse (physical, emotional and sexual abuse) on children was associated with increase rates of psychopathology, sexual difficulties, decreased self-esteem and interpersonal  problems

III.                Cultural Factors
A.      Socioeconomic status
·         Studies have consistently shown that people in the lowest socioeconomic strata (income, education and occupation) are about 2-3 times more likely than those in the higher strata to have a mental disorder (Holzer et al., 19886; Regier et al., 1993; Muntaner et al.,1998) and are also more likely to have higher levels of psychological distress (Eaton and Muntaner,1999).
B.      Racism and discrimination
·         Perceived discrimination was linked to symptoms of depression in a large sample of 5000 children of Asian, Latin American and Caribbean immigrants (Rumbaut, 1994).
C.      Immigration

IV.                School
     Teachers and school can have tremendous influence on the child. School factors include:
·         Inconsistent rules
·         Too many expectations
·         Inappropriate imposition of consequences
·         Negative school climate
·         Unresolved conflict
·         Low level of supervision
·         Cultural biases/insensitivity
·         Lack of identification, recognition and belongingness on the part of the child

V.                  Substance Abuse
·         Children who are prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol are at risk for emotional disturbances and behavioral disorders. According to William and Howard (1993), children exposed to drugs and alcohol demonstrate
a.       marked failure to adapt to the environment
b.      difficulties in appropriate interaction with the caregiver
c.       problems in language, learning and motor skills
·         Infants who have been exposed to cocaine in the uterus are similar to children with neurological challenges
·         Parents focus more on obtaining and using drugs than on caring for the child.
·         Children of parents who engage in substance abuse are more exposed to domestic and physical violence, divorce, unemployment, mental illness and legal problems, and are even victims themselves
·         Children who are witnesses of violence are prone to post-traumatic stress syndrome, flashback and anxiety depression
·         Children lack basic social skills out of profound fear that someone will find the truth [about their parents]
·         Other parents have warned their sons or daughters to stay away from children of substance abusers, thus, increases the prevalence of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide, etc among these childre
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