We reviewed family adjustment research over a 20-year period to determine whether it reflected less negative and/or more positive conceptions of families rearing children with developmental disabilities. Two judges, unaware of the purpose of the study, independently rated 60 articles, 20 from each of 3 time periods: 1971–1975, 1983, and 1993. Results indicated that although negativity declined from the 1970s to 1983, there was no concomitant increase in positivity. In our conclusion we emphasize that the changes were real, but small, and that most investigators still write about family adjustment in a predominantly negative tone.
This study was supported, in part, by Grant No. HD 21993 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded to the second author. We thank Doug Truitt and Rina Vetticad, research assistants and raters, for their contributions.