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Effects of Benefit Finding, Social Support and Caregiving on Youth Adjustment in a Parental Illness Context

Abstract

Social support and benefit finding are two related processes that may protect youth from the adverse effects of caring for an ill parent. The primary purpose of this study was to test a mediational model proposal that benefit finding mediates the effects of social support and caregiving on youth adjustment in the context of parental illness. Given the dearth of research on benefit finding in the youth caregiving field, an additional aim was to further clarify the benefit finding construct in the parental illness context. A total of 428 Australian youth (mean age 12.77 years) who had a parent with a serious health problem completed a questionnaire. Exploration of the benefit finding construct showed that it was unidimensional, relevant to youth caregivers, unrelated to measured demographics, but highly linked to caregiving demands and engagement. Results from path modelling analysis supported the mediational model proposal that benefit finding mediates the effects of social support and caregiving on youth adjustment. While caregiving responsibilities in general has a detrimental effect on adjustment, a small counter-balancing indirect effect was detected via the role of increased benefit finding due to caregiving responsibilities. Most of the benefit finding research in youth has been conducted in the context of trauma, where parental support is a significant protective factor. This study makes an important contribution to understanding benefit finding and social support processes in the context of a chronic stressor where one of the usual sources (parents) of significant coping support is limited.

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Funding

This study was funded by the Australian Research Council (grant number DP0879595).

Author Contributions

K.P.: designed and executed the study, and wrote sections of the paper. S.C.: analysed the data and wrote the results and parts of the discussion.

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Correspondence to Kenneth Ian Pakenham.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All research procedures (including informed consent) were in accordance with the ethical standards of The University of Queensland’s ethical clearance research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

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Pakenham, K.I., Cox, S. Effects of Benefit Finding, Social Support and Caregiving on Youth Adjustment in a Parental Illness Context. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2491–2506 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1088-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1088-2

Keywords

  • Parental illness
  • Young caregivers
  • Caregiving
  • Social support
  • Benefit finding
  • Youth adjustment