Thursday 5th August 2021


The prevalence rate for emotional disability ranges from less than .5 percent to 30 percent have appeared throughout the literature and in various government reports, with most estimates running from 3 to 6 percent (U.S. Depart of Education 1997). Fast Forward several years and the percentage has increased slightly. Children and youth identified as having an emotional disturbance is 6.1% of students ranging from 6-21 served under IDEA (U.S Department of Education 2012). According to the annual reports to Congress on the implementation of IDEiA, fewer than 5 percent of all learners are currently served in programs for those with emotional disorder (U.S. Department of Education 2012).

There is not a set causation of this disorder, but some areas have been explored.
1. Biological: not the sole cause but the relationship between biology and environment factors have been researched. Results for this are inconclusive.
a. Genetics: For some severe emotional disabilities, a few predispositions have been identified. (Forness et. al 2003)
b. Brain injury (Mira et. al 1991)
c. Trauma

2. Family Factors: These include family stress, parenting styles, parental pathology. (Gallaghher et al., 1983)

IDEiA defines an emotional disturbance as a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Emotional disability (emotional disturbance) can be defined as inappropriate types of feelings and behaviors in a normal/common circumstance over a long period of time. These feelings can be moods of unhappiness or depression which can result in difficulties with academics and interpersonal relationships.[The federal and state use the IDEiA definition of the term]

The DSM and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines emotional disability as severe emotional disturbance. The definition provided by SAMHSA defines this disorder as people from birth up to the age of 18 who currently or at any time during the past year have had a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition revised (DSM III-R) that resulted in functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits the child’s role or functioning in family, school, or community activities (SAMHSA, 1993)