Academic journal article Family Relations

The Impact of Formal and Informal Support on Health in the Context of Caregiving Stress

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Impact of Formal and Informal Support on Health in the Context of Caregiving Stress

Article excerpt

Special Issue Guest Editor's Note: In this article the authors examine the impact of informal and formal social supports on the health of parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder by examining self-reported and objective health markers, including C-reactive protein as a marker of systemic inflammation. Parents receiving higher levels of support were found to have better health. Related to these findings, two paired articles examine practice and policy implications of support programs for care providers. In the first paired article, "Managing Stress Levels of Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Meta-Analytic Review of Interventions" (this issue, pp. 207-224), Lindo and colleagues review research establishing the importance of programs focused on reducing stress experienced by parents of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Bailey and Gordon, in their article, "Family Caregiving Amidst Age-Associated Cognitive Changes: Implications for Practice and Future Generations" (this issue, pp. 225-238), examine the challenges and importance of supporting family caregivers of adults with cognitive decline, focusing on the essential nature of this support for the caregiver.

Parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face exceptional parenting challenges. The core symptoms of ASD include deficits in communication and reciprocal interactions and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests. Many children with ASD also show deficits in adaptive behavior, elevated behavioral problems, as well as physical health problems (Lord, 2010; Weijerman & de Winter, 2010). Not surprisingly, parents of children with ASD consistently report greater perceived stress, higher caregiving burden, and more depressive symptoms than parents of typically developing children (Bailey, Golden, Roberts, & Ford, 2007; Cadman et al., 2012; Hayes & Watson, 2013; Singer, 2006).

In addition to its impact on emotional well-being, chronic caregiving stress has also been associated with poorer physical health. Indeed, parents of children with ASD report more pain, more somatic symptoms, more disruptions from physical health problems, and lower overall physical health-related quality of life than parents of typically developing children (Allik, Larsson, & Smedje, 2006; Gallagher & Whiteley, 2013; Khanna et al., 2011; Miodrag, Burke, Tanner-Smith, & Hodapp, 2015). These findings were recently replicated in a large sample representative of the Canadian population wherein parents of children with neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems reported more somatic symptoms and poorer self-rated health than parents of typically developing children (Lach et al., 2009). Furthermore, in a 49-year prospective population-based study of 10,317 high school graduates, individuals who became parents of children with an intellectual or developmental disability had greater risk for cardiovascular disorder in their early 50s, and greater risk for musculoskeletal problems and limitations in activities of daily living in their mid-60s, compared to parents of typically developing children (Seltzer, Floyd, Song, Greenberg, & Hong, 2011). Although these data were based on self-report measures, poor self-rated health has been shown to predict increased cardiovascular and mortality risk in longitudinal epidemiological studies (Idler & Benyamini, 1997). Collectively, these findings indicate that parents of children with ASD are at risk for poor health.

How Does Caregiving Stress Get Under the Skin?

Individuals providing care for a child, spouse, or parent with neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative disorders face recurring daily challenges. Chronic exposure to these daily stressors renders these caregivers more vulnerable to poor health (Gouin, Glaser, Malarkey, Beversdorf, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 2012). Contemporary models highlight chronic caregiving stress as affecting health through both psychosocial and physiological pathways (Kiecolt-Glaser, McGuire, Robles, & Glaser, 2002). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.