In the United States, parents with disabilities represent 15% of all parents of children below age 18. Twenty-six percent of adults with physical disabilities, 24% adults with psychiatric disabilities, 16% adults with a cognitive disability, and 40% of adults with sensory impairment are parents. Surveys have shown that parents with disabilities are more likely to have a spouse with a disability, less likely to be married, more likely to be of higher age, more likely to be unemployed, and more likely to have a child with a disability than parents without a disability. Many communities and societies do not view parents with disabilities favorably. Individuals in the society are often concerned whether a parent with a disability is able to care enough for their child, have sufficient resources to raise their child, and raise a child to be a productive member of society.
The impact a disability can have on parenting depends on the nature and type of disability of the parent and the age of onset of that disability. It is often seen that parents with congenital or stable lifelong disabilities often have a less conflicting sense of identity and manage to get resources, which may facilitate the family's adaptation towards the parent with a disability. Disabilities such as multiple sclerosis or disabilities arising due to accidents during middle adulthood may tend to put a family on great stress, especially if the parent did not previously have a disability. Certain disabilities or medical conditions that require frequent medical procedures or hospitalizations may interrupt a family's routines. Another factor to be considered with parents with disabilities is the characteristics of the child: the age of the child, their temperament and whether or not the child has a disability.
Although misconceptions about parenting with a disability are common, parents with disabilities have successfully raised their families. However, lack of social support, low economic status, lack of parenting knowledge, and childrens' problematic behavior may be risk factors for parents with disabilities to lose custody of their children. Parents with intellectual disabilities and parents with psychiatric conditions are the highest risk groups among parents with disabilities to face discrimination, lack appropriate services and lose their children.
Studies conducted on children of parents with disabilities have shown that the children are at risk for behavioral problems, psychological problems, poor language development, poor self-concept, distorted body image, psychodynamic conflict, developmental delay, child abuse, child neglect, and parentification, that is, assuming adult roles before one is emotionally or developmentally ready. In contrast, several studies have also shown that children of parents with disabilities display normal development in all areas and grow up to be healthy well-adjusted adults. Further, some of the 'problems' in children of parents with disabilities such as substance abuse may also be observed in children of parents without disabilities. Studies have also shown that there is average to better-than-average development and functioning among children of parents with disabilities and these children often displayed positive outcomes such as better coping skills, enhanced problem solving skills, and more positive attitudes towards disabilities.