Chronic Illnesses in Children and Their Effect on the Families
Approximately 10% to 15% of children under 18 years of age have a
chronic physical illness or condition and the number of children with
chronic conditions has increased substantially in recent decades. It
is obvious that chronic illnesses in children do have an immense
impact on the families of these children. There are many psychological
consequences for the sufferers, their siblings and their parents.
Firstly we start by briefly looking at other consequences apart from
the symptoms of their illnesses that the patients have to deal with.
Sean Phipps's research revealed a high occurrence of a repressive
adaptive style in children with cancer. To investigate whether
repressive adaptation in the population is premorbid or reactive,
adaptive styles were considered in children with cancer at the period
of diagnosis and at 6 months and 1 year after the diagnosis. Contrast
groups included healthy children and children with serious chronic
illnesses. At diagnosis children with chronic illnesses showed levels
of repressive adaptive style similar to the cancer group. These
results suggested a move towards repressiveness in reaction to the
diagnosis of chronic illnesses that is then kept constant over time.
Results also showed distress that the patients experienced due to
their illnesses. It is a given that patients would definitely
experience distress and also sometimes repression over their own
condition but what is not so obvious is the effect that it would have
on their siblings.
Barbara Leonard in 1983 conducted a study of 77 healthy siblings of
brothers and sisters with recently diagnosed chronic illnesses such as
cancer, epilepsy, diabetes and cystic fibrosis. The research was
carried out to find out the effect of their siblings' illnesses on
their emotional, social, and psychological health. The materials used
were the Symptom Checklist, Family Environment Scale, Child Behaviour
Checklist and interviews constructed by Leonard herself. The subjects
used were 49 families, which were in the large stable, middle-class,
Caucasian and religious. They came from rural percent) and urban areas
in the five-state region neighbouring Minnesota. The families were
interviewed in their homes within one year of the diagnosis. Parents
were interviewed jointly and children over the ages of four were
interviewed in private. Of the 77 healthy siblings between the ages of
four and 16 years of age, 17 meaning 23.6 percent of them exhibited
behavioural problems as measured by the Child Behaviour Checklist.
These children were in families which had other severe parental and
marital troubles thought to occur after the ill child's diagnosis.
This evidence shows that chronic illnesses in their siblings could
lead to social problems for...