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The physical health of parents of children with disabilities: Is this related to parental stress and respite care?

Friend, Emily (2018) The physical health of parents of children with disabilities: Is this related to parental stress and respite care? University of Surrey. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Parents of children with disabilities often have worse physical and mental health than those with typically developing children and the general population. The stress associated with raising these children is a key predictor of health, with these parents reporting high levels of parental stress. Exploration of this stress-health relationship has largely focused on mental health, suggesting its severity is related to individual factors of parental stress and the use of respite care. Therefore, the current report chose to investigate physical health, specifically exploring which factors of parental stress best predict physical health and if the amount of respite care used can moderate this relationship. This was achieved using a quantitative, cross-sectional design. Eighty parents of children with disabilities completed an online questionnaire consisting of the SF-12 Health Survey, the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form and measures of short- and long-term respite care. Unexpectedly, no correlation was found between parental stress and physical health; despite parents having clinical levels of stress, they were measured to have average physical health. Whilst this lack of a relationship means the potential benefits of respite could not be investigated, this finding was positive, suggesting that not all parents of children with disabilities have poor physical health. However, the reasoning behind this is unknown, possibly the result of extraneous variables or limitations of the health measure used. Further research should validate these findings.

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