This study examined the relationship between sensory processing difficulties, parental stress, and behavioral problems in a clinical sample of young children with developmental and behavioral difficulties. We hypothesized that a high rate of sensory processing difficulties would be found, that there would be a high rate of comorbidity between sensory processing difficulties and behavioral problems, and that children’s sensory processing difficulties and parental stress would be highly correlated. Parents of 59 children ages two to five who attended an out-patient clinic in a low income, urban community completed the Child Behavior Checklist, Parental Stress Inventory-Short Form and the Short Sensory Profile. Children in this clinical population showed a high prevalence (55.9 %) of sensory processing difficulties, a significantly higher rate than previously reported. Sensory processing deficits were correlated with behavioral difficulties and parental stress levels-suggesting that as sensory processing difficulties increase, so do behavioral difficulties and parental stress. Parents of children with sensory processing deficits had significantly higher levels of parental stress than parents of children without sensory deficits. Parenting stress levels were also clinically elevated for the cohort of children in which sensory processing difficulties and behavioral concerns co-existed. These findings suggest that treatment outcomes might improve and parental stress could be reduced if mental health clinicians were trained to identify and address sensory problems. This could result in more children being screened and treated for sensory processing difficulties and an eventual reduction in the rates of parental stress.
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The authors would like to thank the Bronx CREED project funded by NIH’s National Center for Minority Health & Health Disparities (grant # P60 MD000514) for their help with language translational services, Paraic Kenny, PhD for his generous assistance with statistical analysis, Sarah A. Schoen, PhD, OTR for her prompt attention in solving a SSP scoring question, Emily Fried, LMSW, MSEd for her assistance, and the clinicians and families of the Early Childhood Center who participated in this study. Financial support for this project was provided in part by a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) fellowship to the second author.
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Gourley, L., Wind, C., Henninger, E.M. et al. Sensory Processing Difficulties, Behavioral Problems, and Parental Stress in a Clinical Population of Young Children. J Child Fam Stud 22, 912–921 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-9650-9
- Sensory processing disorder
- Short sensory profile
- Parental stress
- Behavioral difficulties
- Preschool aged children