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The health of children with cerebral palsy and stress in their parents


J. Parkes: e-mail:


Title. The health of children with cerebral palsy and stress in their parents.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study conducted to describe the health of children with cerebral palsy and investigate predictors of stress in their parents.

Background.  Children with severe cerebral palsy tend to have poorer health than their able-bodied peers, and their parents are more likely to be stressed and have poorer health.

Method.  A cross-sectional survey with home visits using standard questionnaires was administered to parents in 2004–05. A total of 102/199 (51%) children and parents participated. The children were compared with a normative sample.

Results.  Children with cerebral palsy had poorer physical health, and 79% of parents reported that their child had moderate to severe pain. Their poorer health, in comparison with the normal sample and measured by the Child Health Questionnaire, was related to feeding problems and seizures, general health perceptions to intellectual and feeding impairment, and family activities with severe motor, intellectual and feeding impairment. Poorer psychological well-being on the hyperactivity domain of the Strengths & Difficulties Questionnaire was related to feeding difficulties, on the prosocial domain to more severe forms of all child impairments, and on the social impairment scale to intellectual impairment. Children with psychological problems had statistically significantly increased odds (OR = 7·2, 95% CIs 2·6–20·3) of having parents with high stress.

Conclusion.  Children with cerebral palsy and associated impairments are at higher risk of poorer health and family well-being. A family-centred approach to the care of children with cerebral palsy and their families is essential to ensure both receive adequate care and support.

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