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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 01:25 GMT 02:25 UK
Down's baby blame 'hurts mental health'
Down's syndrome child
The arrival of a child with Down's can be a serious strain
Parents who blame themselves or others for the birth of a baby with Down's syndrome are more prone to depression and stress, a study has found.

A survey of more than 250 mothers and a smaller number of fathers of Down's syndrome children assessed how well they had adjusted to the idea.

Those who were continuing to apportion blame - whether to themselves, or to medical staff, for the condition, fared far less well.

The chances of Down's syndrome are increased in older mothers, although the odds are only increased slightly, and the origin of the genetic disorder are mostly not yet understood.

However, many parents, particularly mothers, are inclined to blame themselves for "doing something wrong" to cause the problem.

Dr Sue Hall and Professor Theresa Marteau of the Psychology and Genetics Research Group at King's College, London, presented their research findings to the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Glasgow on Thursday.

'Parental stress'

Dr Hall said: "Adjusting to the birth of a child with Down's syndrome seems to be better in those mothers who don't blame themselves or others for the child's disorder.

"These mothers are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or parental stress than those who continue to blame.

"It remains to be determined whether any aspect of care can be improved to reduce the chance that parents blame themselves following the birth of a child."

Down's Syndrome Association chief executive Carol Boys said: "It is fairly common for parents to experience feelings of guilt and to blame themselves when their child is born with Down's syndrome.

"Obviously, blame is completely inappropriate and we aim to provide the information and support the families need to help them come to terms with these feelings.

"Many parents find it helpful to speak to other families who have a child with Down's syndrome, in which case, we are able to refer them to other local parent members."

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See also:

04 Mar 00 | Health
Test for Down's 'waste of money'
21 Nov 00 | Health
Safe test for Down's syndrome
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