Home » News » Parenting » Parental Stress With Special-Needs Children

Parental Stress With Special-Needs Children

Raising a child with a disability can cause more daily stress and long-range health problems than parenting a child without disabilities, finds a new study.

The investigation looked at a clinical measure of stress along with parents’ survey responses.

‘Our findings indicate the magnitude of the additional daily stress that these families face,’ said lead author Marsha Mailick Seltzer, of the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin.

The study evaluated parents who have children living with disabilities that included attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder and Down syndrome.

Researchers used data from the Midlife in the United States study, which included telephone interviews with 82 midlife parents (average age 57) of children with disabilities. Parents responded to items about their experiences in the past day concerning time use, daily stress, positive events and physical symptoms. Researchers compared these parents to a similar group of parents of children without disabilities.

They asked parents how often in the past 24 hours they had experienced daily stressors such as arguments, work stress and home stress.

Parents of children with disabilities had a greater number of stressors and a higher number of days during which they had at least one stressor. They reported having at least one stressor on 50 percent of the study days compared with 40 percent among the other parents. Parents of children with disabilities also reported experiencing a greater number of physical health problems.

The researchers also evaluated saliva samples from the parents to measure the changing patterns of their cortisol expression during the day. Cortisol is a biological marker that plays an important role in linking stress exposure to health problems.

Daily cortisol patterns of parents of children with disabilities showed chronic strain that was much higher than normal on days when the parents spent more time with their children.

“The findings suggest that parents of children with disabilities would benefit from stress-reduction strategies,” Seltzer said. “There may be long-range health consequences of cortisol dysregulation, so it is important to moderate stress.”

“Parents of children with disabilities are in need of support,” said Patricia Wright, national director of autism services for the Easter Seals. She said the organization “receives frequent requests regarding respite services, for instance. Respite is critical for family wellness; however, it is not an easy support for many families to access. Unfortunately, respite services are often unavailable due to lack of funding.”

The study appears in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Source: Journal of Health and Social Behavior

Parental Stress With Special-Needs Children

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Parental Stress With Special-Needs Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/02/19/parental-stress-with-special-needs-children/4219.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.