Polymorbidity of developmental disabilities: Additive effects on child psychosocial functioning and parental distress

Randolph Chun Ho CHAN, Huso YI, Queenie K.Y. SIU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: While parents of children with developmental disabilities show greater parenting burden and distress compared with their counterparts, little is known about to what extent developmental polymorbidity in children escalates and magnifies the risk of parental distress.

Aims: This study investigated the co-occurrence of developmental disabilities among a sample of elementary school children and examined its additive effects on child psychosocial functioning and parental distress.

Methods and procedures: A cross-sectional survey among 710 parents of elementary school children in Hong Kong included measures of child psychosocial functioning and parental stress. Structural equation modeling was used to test a hypothesized model in which child psychosocial functioning mediates the effect of developmental polymorbidity on parental distress.

Outcomes and results: About one-fourth of the participants reported their children having two or more developmental disabilities. The number of developmental disabilities was positively related to the severity of emotional and behavioral problems in children, which in turn explained general and parenting distress in parents.

Conclusions and implications: Given the heightened vulnerability to distress among parents of children with multiple developmental disabilities, psychological care should particularly target this population. Early identification and intervention strategies are also needed to detect children with multiple co-occurring developmental disabilities, which could potentially alleviate their emotional and behavioral problems and lessen the parenting burden. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103579
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online dateFeb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2020



Chan, R. C. H., Yi, H., & Siu, Q. K. Y. (2020). Polymorbidity of developmental disabilities: Additive effects on child psychosocial functioning and parental distress. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 99. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2020.103579


  • Developmental polymorbidity
  • Psychosocial functioning
  • Emotional symptoms
  • Behavioral problems
  • Parental distress
  • Hong Kong