Understanding Caregiver Strain and Related Constructs in Caregivers of Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Amy L. Green, Krista Kutash, John Ferron, Bruce Lubotsky Levin, Rita Debate, Julie Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: There is evidence to suggest the level of caregiver strain experienced by parents and other caregivers may have implications for engagement in their child’s mental health and education services. This is particularly important for caregivers of youth with emotional and behavioral disorders in special education, as these caregivers tend to be less involved than other caregivers. The purpose of this study was to understand caregiver strain and theoretically-related constructs in caregivers of youth with emotional and behavioral disorders. Methods: The sample included 112 caregivers of youth receiving special education services for Emotional Disturbance (ED). Using structural equation modeling and the Modified Double ABCX Model as a theoretical framework, the relationships among caregiver strain, stressors, resources, and perceptions were examined. Results: Consistent with findings from previous studies, results indicated that more problems with youth functioning were related to higher levels of caregiver strain. Resources were found to be positively related to both perceptions and caregiver strain. The strongest relationship was observed between caregiver perceptions and caregiver strain, with more negative perceptions associated with higher levels of caregiver strain. Conclusions: Findings reveal the nature of the relationships among caregiver strain and related constructs, as well as the potential importance of perceptions as a target for interventions for families and youth. An understanding of caregiver strain as it relates to stressors, resources, and perceptions provides insight into how we might leverage these factors in order to increase caregiver engagement in services, ultimately improving outcomes for youth and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-772
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Caregiver strain
  • Emotional and behavioral disorders
  • Special education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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