Accounting for the “Down Syndrome Advantage”

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Impact Factor: 2.08). 01/2011; 116(1):3-15. DOI: 10.1352/1944-7558-116.1.3
Source: PubMed


The authors examined factors that could explain the higher levels of psychosocial well being observed in past research in mothers of individuals with Down syndrome compared with mothers of individuals with other types of intellectual disabilities. The authors studied 155 mothers of adults with Down syndrome, contrasting factors that might validly account for the ?Down syndrome advantage? (behavioral phenotype) with those that have been portrayed in past research as artifactual (maternal age, social supports). The behavioral phenotype predicted less pessimism, more life satisfaction, and a better quality of the mother?child relationship. However, younger maternal age and fewer social supports, as well as the behavioral phenotype, predicted higher levels of caregiving burden. Implications for future research on families of individuals with Down syndrome are discussed.

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    • "Fathers are more pessimistic about the future and less likely to use coping strategies to reduce stress than mothers ( Essex , Seltzer , & Krauss , 1999 ) . Among mothers of adults with Down syndrome , maternal age at time of birth influenced caregiver burden with an older maternal age being associated with less burden ( Esbensen & Seltzer , 2011 ) . Caregivers less than 55 years of age were found to experience more burden than caregivers older than 55 years of age ( Hayden & Heller , 1997 ) . "
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    • "This finding was true despite the fact that some of the children with more optimistic parents initially had more severe deficits and behavior problems (Durand, Hieneman, Clarke, & Zona, 2009). Research with families having a child with Down's syndrome replicated this observation (Esbensen & Seltzer, 2011). It appears that parental optimism may serve as a protective factor for these children and parental pessimism may put a child more at risk of developing severe behavior problems at a later date. "
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    • "The large effect may be reflective of what researchers have termed the ''Down syndrome advantage'', which highlights the behavioral phenotype of Down syndrome as being more social and associated with fewer behavioral challenges (Esbensen and Seltzer 2011; Seltzer et al. 2004). When looking at the individual results of the other disability categories, there is more variability. "
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