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The Opinions and Attitudes of Mothers to Mental Retardation in Lagos, Nigeria.
Background Mental retardation is a chronic and permanent disorder occurring during developmental period of life. The uncertainty of the future and independent
existence result in negative attitudes toward the affected children. An increased burden of care leading to emotional and psychological distress among parents. Aim The objective of the study was to assess mothers for attitudes, beliefs and behavioural response to mental
retardation. Method One hundred and twenty six mothers of children with mental retardation in a mentally handicapped centre for children in Lagos were invited and screened for attitudes and opinion using Attitude Scale, between March and May 2002.
Results Of the 126 mothers invited, 106 (84.1%) took part in the study, the mean age was 40.0 ± 6.6 years; 37(35.0%) attributed the cause of mental retardation to evil
spirits or witchcrafts, 19 (17.9%) to diabolical powers of father/mother in-laws, 14 (13.2%) blamed spouses and 11 (10.4%) believed in natural causes while 5 (4.7%) viewed it
as due their faults. Majority, 79 (74.5%) still preferred to have more children in spite of having children with mental retardation; 9 (8.5%) of mothers exhibited depressed
feelings and 3 (2.8%) thought of doing away with (killing) the children.
Conclusion There is an increased pervasive attitude to children with mental retardation. Therefore, efforts aimed at changing parental and by extension societal attitudes
toward these children are necessary for their care and survival. There is also need for government and charitable organizations to reach-out to parents of these children so as
to reduce the associated burden and sufferings among them.
Nigerian Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 6 (2) 2008: pp. 80-85