Magazine article Science News

Handicapped Kids Stand Up to Family Stress

Magazine article Science News

Handicapped Kids Stand Up to Family Stress

Article excerpt

Handicapped kids stand up to family stress

Researchers have long noted that children with physical disabilities stemming from brain disorders, such as cerebral palsy, also contend with more than their share of psychological disorders. According to one highly regarded theory, the brain disorders render these children more vulnerable to stress and conflict within their families, thus creating a greater risk of mental problems.

But a five-year study conducted by psychologist Naomi Breslau of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit finds more vulnerability in the theory itself than in the children it encompasses.

"Children with physical handicaps involving the brain are no more vulnerable to stress within the family than are healthy children," Breslau maintains.

The psychological difficulties that stand out among these youngsters are symptoms of depression related to social isolation and to other negative experiences confronting chronically ill or handicapped persons in general, Breslau reports in the January ARCHIVES OF GENERAL PSYCHIATRY. Handicapped children in the study also displayed substantial problems in maintaining concentrating, particularly in school. Symptoms of inattention may result directly from brain damage, Breslau asserts, but investigators have yet to establish this connection.

Breslau's study compares two groups of children: 157 youngsters with cerebral palsy, myelodysplasia (spinal cord defects) or multiple physical handicaps linked to a brain disorder, and 339 healthy children randomly selected from families living in Cleveland. …

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