Parents who look after children with serious health problems have to cope with numerous challenges and high stress levels, but many also say there are rewards, according to a new study.
"What is pivotal is the meaning the parents make – what it means to them to be a parent who is doing more than parenting: they are caregiving as well," said lead author Susan Cadell, a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
"For many parents this means learning a great deal about their child's illness, the treatment, and sometimes it includes advocating for themselves and others in similar circumstances," she explained in a university news release.
Variety of positive aspects
The study included more than 270 parents of children younger than 20 in Canada and the United States with conditions such as severe cerebral palsy, cancer and irreversible organ failure.
The parents completed a questionnaire meant to determine their level of "post-traumatic growth", a term used to describe positive aspects of difficult situations. The areas assessed included relating to others, personal strength, appreciation of life and spiritual change.
The parents could score between zero and 126 points, with zero indicating no post-traumatic growth. On average, parents had a score of 62, according to the study recently published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.
"The findings indicate that there are a variety of positive aspects in a population where we think not much positive at all is happening," Cadell said. "Our response rate was high because people wanted to talk about their children, families and relationships. This research has the potential to positively impact support for caregiving parents."
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