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Parenting Chronically Ill Kids Can Stress Entire Family

Parenting Chronically Ill Kids Can Stress Entire FamilyNew research chronicles the extra demands placed on parents of chronically ill children and finds that caregiving demands created greater stress then the severity or length of the child’s sickness.

The study is the first to look at the multiple factors that contribute to parental stress when raising a special needs child, stress that impacts the whole family. Some 15 percent of U.S. families have a chronically ill child with special needs.

Researchers analyzed and assessed 96 peer-reviewed studies in 12 countries between 1980 and 2012.

Investigators reviewed studies involving parents of children up to age 21 with asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, epilepsy, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and/or sickle cell disease.

In addition to identifying common stress triggers, parents also need help coping with the strain, said Melissa Cousino, M.D., lead author of the report.

In addition to usual parenting responsibilities, parents of chronically ill children deal with special needs such as doctor or therapy appointments, medical treatments, hospitalizations and school issues that can be overwhelming while trying to integrate the sick child’s needs into the family routine.

Parents reported suffering added stress from watching their child in pain, and from worrying about the child’s vulnerability and explaining the health problems to those outside the family.

Co-author Dr. Rebecca Hazen, psychologist and assistant professor from the Department of Pediatrics, provided the following tips on reducing parenting stress:

  • Be open to assistance from friends or family who may be able to help reduce some of the stress;
  • To decrease the demands on one parent, parents should find ways to share parenting and treatment responsibilities;
  • Let your child’s doctor know if you think you may need help in managing the stress related to caring for a child with a chronic illness.

The study results are reported in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

Source: Case Western University

Child in the hospital photo by shutterstock.

Parenting Chronically Ill Kids Can Stress Entire Family

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. (2018). Parenting Chronically Ill Kids Can Stress Entire Family. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.