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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 02:56 GMT
'Benefits' of chronically ill children
Asthmatic boy
Caring for asthmatics can bring families closer together
Caring for chronically ill children can be a positive experience for many families, say scientists.

American researchers found that mothers caring for chronically ill children reported stronger family bonds, better communication between family members and an increased awareness of children's needs.

Lead author professor Robin Chernoff, assistant professor of paediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Centre and a specialist in behavioural and developmental paediatrics, questioned 190 mothers.

The mothers, whose children were aged between 7 to 12, had either sickle cell anaemia, diabetes, cystic fibrosis or moderate to severe asthma.


While working with families of chronically ill children we realised lots of parents were saying positive things about caring for their children

Professor Robin Chernoff, at the Johns Hopkins Children's Centre

Each mother was asked to say how her family had benefited from raising a child with a chronic illness.

Seventy per cent of mothers said "their families were stronger because of their child's condition," and 80% said their families "had benefited in some way from having a child with chronic illness."

Positive benefits

Mothers said they had learned better parenting skills, greater self-awareness, increased awareness of family members' needs, greater sensitivity and tolerance, confidence and emotional stability.

Dr Chernoff said their study, reported in the American Journal Ambulatory Pediatrics, had highlighted many positive benefits.

"While working with families of chronically ill children we realised lots of parents were saying positive things about caring for their children.

"We really just wanted a chance to ask the question, 'In what ways are things going well?'

"As doctors we are skilled at asking about problems that arise from living with a chronically ill child.

"This study points out the importance of recognising and asking about the positive impacts of the experience as well."

John Grounds, of the charity Action Research, said: "It's good news that a family can draw positive experiences from living with a chronically ill child, be it improved communication or stronger family bonds.

"However, we musn't forget that such families need as much external support as possible, and the confidence that medical researchers are dedicated to helping prevent and improve treatment for these conditions in the first place."

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