Emotional and behavioural difficulties in children of parents with multiple sclerosis
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Emotional and behavioural problems were investigated in children who have a parent with multiple sclerosis (MS), in relation to factors such as family dysfunction, parental depression and illness-related characteristics. The participants were 56 MS patients, their spouses and one randomly selected child aged 4–17 years, and a comparison group of 64 children and both their parents, none of whom reported somatic illness. Emotional and behavioural problems in the children were identified by reporting of both parents and self-report using the Achenbach’s Child Behaviour Checklist and Youth Self Report respectively. Parental depression and family dysfunction were explored using the Beck Depression Inventory and Family Assessment Device, respectively. The data were analysed using independent samples t-tests for between-group comparisons, Pearson r correlations between children’s problems and family dysfunction or parental depression, and multiple regression analyses for identifying predictors for children’s problems. Children whose parents, especially mothers, had MS presented greater emotional and behavioural problems than comparison children. Children’s problems were positively associated with maternal depression and family dysfunction. Family dysfunction predicted children’s overall and externalizing problems, while the severity of impairment of the ill mother predicted children’s internalizing problems. Implications of these findings for clinical practice are discussed.
Keywordssomatically ill parents children’s psychopathology
This study is part of an international multisite research project, which was supported by a grant from the European Union in its 5th Framework Program “Quality of Life” (QLGT—2001—02378): “Mental Health Prevention in a Target Group at Risk: Children of Somatically Ill Parents (COSIP)”. The following institutions and Principal Investigators collaborated in this project:
1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Hamburg–Eppendorf, Germany (Dr. med. Georg Romer).
2. Department of child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, University of Vienna, Austria (Prof. Dr. med. M. Friedrich).
3. Department of Psychology, University of Aarhus, Denmark (M. Thastum, Ph.D).
4. Child Psychiatry Clinic, Turku University Hospital, Finland (Prof. Dr. J. Piha).
5. Department of Child Psychiatry, Athens University Medical School, “Aghia Sophia” Children’s Hospital, Greece (Prof. J. Tsiantis).
6. Clinic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, Romania (Prof. Dr. S. Milea).
7. Clinic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Basle University Hospital, Switzerland (PD Dr. B. Steck).
8. Department of Psychological Medicine, Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton, United Kingdom (M. Watson, Ph.D.).
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