Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Sylvia L. Voelker


Educational psychology, Developmental psychology, Clinical psychology




The present study investigated the academic self-concepts and socioemotional functioning of children with Mild Intellectual Disability (MID; IQs of 70-85) and also explored how parents interpret and respond to these children's academic difficulties. Previous research has shown that children with MID are likely to underachieve academically (e.g., Karande et al., 2008). Frequent experiences of academic difficulty may relate to the development of negative academic self-perceptions, especially amongst children with MID attending full-time regular education classes who are forced to compare themselves to higher achieving peers, as well as socioemotional dysfunction. Moreover, because children with MID may lack a formal cognitive diagnosis, their parents may often be unaware of their intellectual limitations. Unaware parents may erroneously attribute academic difficulties to motivational factors and subsequently respond with more negative/ less positive parenting behaviours. Misattributions may be particularly common amongst lower functioning parents with problem-solving difficulties. Study hypotheses were addressed through administration of child self-concept/socioemotional functioning and parent attribution/behaviour measures to a convenience sample of 96 school-aged children (ages 6-13) and their parents with estimated Full Scale IQs (IQ) broadly falling in the MID range or higher. Analyses revealed a positive relationship between child IQ and academic self-concept that was not moderated by full-time regular classroom placement. Moreover, an inverse relationship was uncovered between receipt of special education services and academic self-concept, suggesting the need for sensitive delivery of academic interventions to children with MID in the regular classroom. Socioemotionally, children with MID demonstrated higher levels of externalizing and overall dysfunction than did children with higher IQs. While low child IQ did not predict the tendency for parents to attribute instances of academic difficulty to motivational factors, it did inversely predict parents' degree of cognitive stimulation on a challenging academic task; these findings suggested that parents may often be aware of the cognitive limitations of their children with MID. Finally, lower functioning parents of children with MID evidenced a somewhat uninvolved style of parenting when interacting with their children on a difficult academic task, thus highlighting the need for interventions aimed at optimizing parents' contributions to the academic/psychosocial development of children with MID.