Parenting children with intellectual disability: linking maternal insightfulness to sensitivity

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Background: This study examined mothers' representation of their children's inner world – maternal insightfulness – and its link to sensitive maternal behaviour. We aimed to understand some of the parental processes that underlie parenting children with intellectual disability (ID). Methods: The sample included 38 mothers and their children with non-specific ID aged 2.5 to 5.5 years. Children had developmental quotient scores of M = 56.29, SD = 9.65 and adaptive behaviour scores of M = 60.72, SD = 10.43. We hypothesised that mothers who were insightful show more sensitive behaviour when interacting with their children than non-insightful mothers do. Maternal insightfulness was assessed using the insightfulness interview, and maternal sensitive behaviour during mother–child interaction was assessed using the emotional availability observation scales. Results: Forty-one per cent of the mothers showed positive insightfulness regarding their children's inner world. These mothers showed higher levels of sensitive behaviour than did the non-insightful mothers. The insightfulness–sensitivity link was not associated with any of the mothers' or the children's characteristics, including the level of developmental quotient, suggesting that these parental constructs are not simply a reflection of the level of the children's developmental delay. Conclusions: Better understanding of the mechanism of parenthood, including the insightfulness–sensitivity link, may help personalise the support provided to parents of children with ID. The associations between maternal insightfulness and sensitivity imply that promoting maternal insightfulness may enhance mothers' sensitivity towards their children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1285-1289
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 MENCAP and International Association of the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • intellectual disability
  • maternal insightfulness
  • maternal sensitivity
  • parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Rehabilitation


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