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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

COCKRELL, Phelia  and  MOEN, Melanie. The link between parental practices and the aggressive behaviour of learners with moderate intellectual dysfunction. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.2, pp.568-587. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2021/v61n2A10.

Learners with moderate intellectual disabilities (MID) are a cohort of learners whose high levels of aggressive behaviour make teaching in schools a challenging task. These learners have an average intelligence quotient (IQ) of between 55 and 70 and their intellectual development is almost two to eight years behind their peers without MID. Learners with MID have difficulty in applying their knowledge and have poor verbal, language, reading and mathematical skills. Learners such as these also present with short memory and attention span, are hyperactive and impulsive, misinterpret non-verbal messages, and get easily frustrated and irritated. These learners are four times more likely to develop aggressive behaviour, which leads to certain challenges for teachers and other persons concerned. The primary goal of this article was to determine whether the parental practices of the parents of these learners were causative to their aggressive behaviour. Underlying the primary goal, the following secondary research objectives were set: (1) To determine which accumulative systemic factors contribute to the aggressive behaviour of learners with MID; (2) To determine the specific triggers that lead to the aggressive behaviour of such learners; and (3) To determine the specific parental practices that can be identified that lead to the aggressive behaviour of these learners. For the purpose of the empirical part of this article, a phenomenology approach and a qualitative research design were used. Fifteen learners with MID and aggressive behaviour were studied in-depth through semi-structured interviews, document analysis and observation. The main findings of the study show that all the participants in this study came from problematic families and that their aggressive behaviour was only a symptom of underlying problems. These underlying problems were an unfortunate combination of negative parental practices, emotional neglect and a lack of skills to deal with challenges. Negative parental practices included: aggressive, uninvolved, authoritarian and/or permissive parents who did not communicate with their children and who showed little or no support, sympathy, understanding and empathy towards their offspring. All the participants experienced their parents as uninvolved, emotionally, and sometimes physically absent, from their lives. Due to the parents' lack of involvement, there was little or no communication between the participants and their parents. The parents did not respond to their needs and there was no support or assistance for these participants to overcome difficult or traumatic experiences in their lives. The learners were left with the perception that their parents were emotionally and physically absent, which led to a feeling of emotional neglect, rejection, loss and inadequate support. The example set for these participants in their parents' homes was that aggressive behaviour was the norm in dealing with disputes and problems in interpersonal relationships. Their parents showed little or no self-control and poor conflict handling. Accumulative negative factors such as disintegrated families, problematic attachment and rejection were causative contributors to their aggressive behaviour. The majority of the participants' families had disintegrated due to divorce, death of a parent or they were removed and placed in a place of safety. The participants lacked a stable home where they could feel safe and loved. The majority of the participants also had poor attachment with their mothers. There was no trust, empathy, support and they felt that they could not rely on their mothers for help, advice, accompaniment and protection. These learners were not supported adequately to deal with these challenges. They had to overcome challenges by themselves and they were left with unresolved emotions. The accumulation of these various negative factors in the participants' lives was the primary trigger for their aggressive behaviour at school. Put differently, the primary trigger may therefore be described as problematic conditions within the family, which the participants were unable to process due to their limitations - a state of affairs that ultimately manifested as aggressive behaviour at school.

Keywords : moderate intellectual disability; aggression; parental practices; uninvolved parents; attachment; loss; rejection; inadequate communication; emotional neglect; separation; disintegrated families.

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