Factors influencing the self-esteem of children with a severe or profound learning disability: A pilot study

Karen McKenzie, George Murray, Penny Derries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background Children with a learning disability can experience stigma in several ways, for example through abuse or barriers such as social rejection that limit their opportunities. The level of awareness of stigma can vary from person to person; however, those who perceive themselves to have a stigmatised identity have been found to have reduced aspirations and self-esteem. Research suggests that children with a learning disability have lower self-esteem than their typically developing peers.

Aim To explore whether having more than one potentially stigmatising characteristic or attribute (‘double discrimination’) influences the self-esteem of children with a learning disability; and to understand whether therapeutic interventions could improve self-esteem.

Method Data collected by teachers, including self-esteem scores for 20 children with a learning disability, were analysed to explore whether double discrimination was related to lower self-esteem, and whether receiving a therapeutic intervention in the form of input from a clinical psychologist, and/or participating in a gardening group, influenced self-esteem.

Results The pilot study found that those children who experienced double discrimination had significantly lower self-esteem than those who did not. Those in the therapeutic intervention group had increased self-esteem scores compared with baseline, while the scores of those in the control group and who received normal schooling fell slightly, although the difference was not significant.

Conclusion The results may assist nurses to develop interventions that improve the self-esteem of children with a learning disability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-30
JournalLearning Disability Practice
Issue number3
Early online date11 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2020


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