Mothers with chronically ill children frequently express dissatisfaction with their role as a parent and often display severe symptoms of depression, new research reveals.
"The time demands that result from caring for a child with a health condition can limit a mother's opportunities to work or participate in intellectual, cultural or recreational activities," said Ellen Johnson Silver, PhD, head of the study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. "The activity restrictions that are imposed on mothers by caring for a child with a chronic condition may lead to frustration and unhappiness with the parenting role and subsequently to symptoms of psychological stress."
The researchers examined 365 inner-city mothers whose children had a variety of chronic conditions, including asthma, sickle cell anemia, and heart disease. The mothers completed standard questionnaires measuring their symptoms of depression, their children's daily activities, and their perceptions of "role restriction" -- the degree to which they felt that being a parent dominated their lives and restricted their freedom.
Symptoms of depression were high in the group as a whole, and 20 percent of the mothers felt highly restricted by their duties as a parent. More than half (59 percent) of the mothers reported that their children were limited in their daily activities because of their illness. Among these mothers, symptoms of depression and feelings that their children's needs dominated their lives were significantly higher compared to mothers of children whose daily activities were not limited. The scientists report their findings in the October issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
The results of the research point to several opportunities to intervene with mothers of chronically ill children to improve their ability to cope.
"Therapists and educators can acknowledge the real limitations that these
mothers frequently experience and he
Contact: Ellen Johnson Silver, PhD
Center for the Advancement of Health