Research that explores being a parent or grandparent with musculoskeletal problems has been fairly limited to date. The aim of this study was to describe the experience of parenting in the context of back pain (BP), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with a particular focus on the extent and nature of childcare experiences and to compare these experiences across the three groups. In addition, the possible reasons for these reported experiences, the availability of advice and support and the development of strategies for coping were explored using a cross-sectional descriptive survey. A total of 448 participants was recruited from relevant charitable organizations and the National Health Service (280 with BP, 106 with AS and 62 with RA). A combination of opportunistic and random sampling was used. Quantitative data were analysed with appropriate descriptive and inferential statistics using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS version 10). Qualitative data were analysed using content analysis.
Results indicate that a high proportion of all groups experienced a wide range of difficulties with parenting (81% BP, 77% AS, 97% RA). The most prevalent problems were similar for all three groups: lifting baby/child from the floor or cot, encouraging children/grandchildren to help with domestic chores and keeping up (in terms of energy) with children/grandchildren. However, the RA group reported having greater difficulties than the other two groups. Very little advice was offered to participants with parenting difficulties which may indicate a gap in service provision. However, a wide range of strategies for coping were described by respondents. The study highlighted a need for healthcare professionals to develop a greater awareness of parenting issues and to provide opportunities for these issues to be addressed. Copyright © 2004 Whurr Publishers Ltd.