Stress and Ameliorating Factors among Families with a Seriously Ill or Disabled Child
Meredith Rayner, Prof. Susan Moore

Research suggests families with a chronically ill or disabled child are subject to higher levels of stress than families with typically developing children. Family resources have been found to buffer parental stress, and there is some evidence that several factors relating to the illness of the child may also have an impact on parent stress levels. The current study examined the relationships between parenting stress, parenting style, family resources (family income mother’s education, number of children in the family), and illness factors (ill child behaviour, care time required) in families with a chronically ill or disabled child. Participants were 77 parents (69 mothers, 8 fathers) of children with a chronic illness or disability and 77 of their well children (37 boys, 30 girls). Parents rated their level of stress and their ill child’s behaviour, as well as providing child illness and demographic information. A well child in the family rated parenting style. Results suggested parents were exceptionally stressed compared to norms. High parent stress was associated with difficult ill child behaviour and high care demands for ill child. Additionally, parents with ‘difficult’ ill children and whose parenting styles were characterised by high behavioural control were particularly stressed. Implications for managing parental stress are discussed.


parent stress; chronic illness; siblings; parenting style; child adjustment; family factors

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