Posts Tagged ‘ families ’

Research Explores How Post-Traumatic Stress Affects Families After Illness

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Parents whose children face serious or life-threatening illnesses are likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including anxiety and depression.  These symptoms may, in effect, extend the traumatic effect the illness has on the whole family because it affects how parents treat siblings, their spouses, and other relatives.  More on a new study about post-traumatic stress in kids and adults after a child’s injury from The New York Times:

Researchers who study parental stress tend to reach for the oxygen-mask metaphor: if you don’t breathe yourself, you aren’t going to be able to take care of your child.

“Parents need to feel well enough that they can then be there for their child, their other children,” said Nancy Kassam-Adams, a psychologist who is the director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The hardest thing is self-care.”

Dr. Kassam-Adams is the lead author of a new review of post-traumatic stress in both children and parents after the children were injured, which concludes that about one in every six children, and a similar percentage of parents, experience significant, persistent symptoms. They may have intrusive and distressing memories and dreams, or continue to avoid people or places that evoke the circumstances of the injury, or struggle with mood problems, including depression. If untreated, this can damage the child’s emotional and physical recovery.

Research into the effects of parental stress developed as pediatric cancer treatment claimed more and more success stories, medical victories that gave children their lives back. Clinicians and social workers — and parents themselves — began asking questions about how to help families continue on with those triumphantly recovered childhoods.

It helped, in part, to tell parents that they’d been enlisted in a war, said Anne E. Kazak, a pediatric psychologist and co-director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery Science at Nemours Pediatric Health System in Wilmington, Del. Parents connected to this metaphor: “You’ve been part of the war on cancer, the battle fighting it,” she said.

Some of the strategies and insights gained from this body of research are already visible in most children’s hospitals: a place for parents to sleep, even in the intensive care unit; including parents in so-called family-centered rounds; a staff attuned to interpret a parent’s extreme behavior as a cry for help, rather than a source of irritation and extra work.

But what happens after children are out of the medical danger zone? Many parents continue to experience the physical symptoms of stress — the racing pulse, the dry mouth. They continue to flash back to the moment of the cancer diagnosis, the moment of the very premature birth, the moment of the accident.

“It’s my belief a parent who’s traumatized is always expecting the other shoe to drop, will always be scanning the horizon,” said Dr. Richard J. Shaw, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford.

Image: Mother holding infant’s hand, via Shutterstock

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More single dads than ever head US households

Friday, July 5th, 2013

father and sonA record eight percent of single dads are heading United States households, according to new findings from the Pew Research Center based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. With fewer than 300,000 families led by single fathers in 1960, over the past 50 years, the number increased to 2.6 million in 2011. Now, a quarter of all single-parent families are led by men, which showcases a growing trend in American society—only two-thirds of U.S. homes are run by married couples as compared to the nearly 90% that fit this statistic in 1960, according to NBC News.

Some of the factors that may be contributing to this shift are: the growing number of babies born to unmarried couples (four in 10 births in 2008, according to Pew); higher divorce rates with more opportunities for child custody through an improved legal system; and an increase in the number of breadwinner moms that has nearly tripled the average amount of time fathers spend with their kids (from 2.5 hrs/wk in 1965 to 7.3 hrs/wk in 2011, according to Pew). In fact, 27 percent of fathers under the age of 30 are single parents.

Though the number of single dads in on the rise, they are still vastly outnumbered by single moms, which consisted of 8.6 million households in 2011. Pew found that single dads are more likely to be less educated and older than single moms, make more money, and live with a partner (41 percent of single fathers versus 16 percent of single mothers).

Image: Father and son, via Shutterstock

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