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Keywords:

  • childhood diabetes;
  • family burden;
  • gender differences;
  • parental emotional distress

Haugstvedt A, Wentzel-Larsen T, Rokne B, Graue M. Perceived family burden and emotional distress: similarities and differences between mothers and fathers of children with type 1 diabetes in a population-based study.

Background: Parenting children with diabetes entail an extra burden for the families. More information is needed about associations between perceived family burden and emotional distress in both mothers and fathers.

Objective: To analyze (i) perceived burden and emotional distress in mothers and fathers of children with type 1 diabetes and (ii) associations between parental burden and distress and factors related to the child.

Methods: Mothers (n = 103) and fathers (n = 97) of 115 children (1–15 yr) with type 1 diabetes participated in this population-based survey. The parents completed the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 items (HSCL-25), measuring emotional distress, and the Family Burden Scale, which includes five questions measuring perceived family burden related to the child's diabetes.

Results: Both mothers and fathers reported that the greatest burden was related to long-term health concerns. The mothers reported a significantly greater burden related to medical treatment and significantly more emotional distress than the fathers. The mothers' perceived burden was significantly correlated with emotional distress. Nighttime blood glucose measurements were significantly associated with perceived parental burden, and experienced nocturnal hypoglycemia was significantly associated with parental emotional distress.

Conclusions: The higher perceived burden related to medical treatment, the more emotional distress, and the correlations between burdens and emotional distress in mothers vs. fathers emphasize the importance of discussing both parents' roles and responsibilities in relation to the child's diabetes in follow-up. In the consultations, emphasizing nighttime caregiving and nocturnal hypoglycemia might also be important to prevent emotional distress.