Online Discourse of the Stressors of Parenting Children with Mental Health Disorders
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Child mental illness impacts the entire family, and previous research has consistently found that parenting children with mental health disorders is psychologically distressing. The study’s purpose was to delineate the stressors for which parents request advice and the online interactions in which often isolated parents engage. We coded the content of 146 posts written by parents of 77 daughters and 69 sons ages 5 to 18 years with AD/HD, bipolar disorder, and depressive and anxiety disorders (M age = 10) on four publicly accessible internet forums. Most posters were mothers, most wrote to seek information or advice, and most received advice from other women. Parents posted on a wide range of parental concerns, most frequently the effects of children’s illness on themselves, specifically feelings of helplessness, their need for advice on their own coping, and the stress of child discipline. Parents frequently also expressed concern about child symptoms, especially poor academic performance, and had questions about efficacy, side effects of, and noncompliance with medication. Parents’ concerns did not differ by child diagnosis, gender, or age. However, parents of children with AD/HD only were significantly less likely to describe parent-child verbal or physical conflict than other forum parents. Future research should create empirically based recommendations for effective discipline and medication management that reflects parents’ concerns.
KeywordsParenting Parenting stressors Child mental health AD/HD Bipolar disorder in children
The authors thank Lisa Weigand and Mary Scipione for their assistance in conducting the study.
E.M.: designed the study and the initial coding manual, ran most of the data analyses, and wrote the Introduction, Method, some of the Results, and the Discussion sections of the manuscript. C.M.: Supervised the coding of data, collaborated on the coding manual, analyzed the reliability data, and wrote part of the results.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All procedures performed in the present study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee of Pennsylvania State University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.
Because research involved the collection of existing data by which subjects could not be identified, and there were no interactions with the subjects, the research was considered exempt. Informed consent, therefore, was not collected.
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