Psychopathology profiles in children with congenital visual impairment

Rebecca MacKechnie, Helen Pote, Naomi Dale

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Children with visual impairment (VI) may be at increased risk of psychopathology, compared to typically developing peers (Harris & Lord, 2016). This study investigates patterns of psychopathology within children with VI, and potentially associated risk factors. Thirty-four children (aged 8-11) with congenital disorders of the peripheral visual system, and their parents, were included in the study. Children had ‘low vision’ or ‘blindness’ (ICD-10), with no known neurological or physical comorbidities. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire battery, designed to understand psychopathology profiles. Parents completed questionnaires which assessed internalising and externalising symptoms, social communication, adaptive functioning and quality of life. Children completed self-report questionnaires which assessed internalising symptoms and quality of life. Medical and demographic information were obtained, from parent report and medical records. A cross-sectional within-group design was used. Between-group analyses were used to compare sample and normative population scores. The results indicated that children in the sample were at increased risk of psychopathology, compared to typically developing peers. Eleven children (33%) were at ‘high risk’ of an internalising disorder and 7 children (21.2%) were at ‘high risk’ of an externalising disorder, compared to 10% of the typically developing population. Children in the sample were particularly ‘at risk’ of separation anxiety. Risk factors associated with psychopathology were social communication difficulties, blindness, and adaptive functioning weaknesses. Gender, socioeconomic status and age were not associated with psychopathology symptoms. In the multivariate analysis, social communication difficulties was the only factor associated with increased psychopathology symptoms. Findings add to the growing evidence base that children with VI are at ‘high risk’ of psychopathology. The recommendation is that a preventative approach is taken to support the emotional needs of children with VI. This may include supporting the development of a secure attachment style and social communication skills.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Pote, Helen, Supervisor
  • Dale, Naomi, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • visual impairment
  • psychopathology
  • children
  • congenital blindness
  • low vision
  • Mental health

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