The influence of genetic disorders on parenting stress and family environment
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18q- is a chromosomal deletion disorder caused by missing genetic material from the long arm of the 18th chromosome. The extensive impairments associated with 18qmay be a significant source of stress to parents. Research on families of handicapped children suggests that these families experience additional stress related to challenges such as increased caregiving demands, changes in social support systems, and financial burdens related to medical needs and decreased income. Changes in the family environment are also implicated in families coping with a disabled child. Some studies reveal highly cohesive environments within these families, while others reveal decreased levels of expressiveness and cohesion and increases in conflict. The present study compared variables of parenting stress and family environment in families of children with and without disabilities. Group 1 consisted of 24 primary caregivers of children with 18q-. Group 2 consisted of 32 primary caregivers of children with DS. Group 3 consisted of 32 primary caregivers of typically developing children. A one-way, between groups multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted to investigate differences in parenting stress on three subscales of the Parenting Stress Index. A significant difference between groups was found. Post hoc pairwise comparisons indicated that the DS group reported statistically significantly more stress than the Control group on both the Isolation and Spouse subscales. The 18q- group was not found to be statistically significantly different from either the Control or DS group on any of the three PSI subscales. A one-way, between groups multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was also conducted to investigate differences in family environment on three subscales of the Family Environment Scale. A significant difference between groups was found. Post hoc pairwise comparisons indicated that the DS group showed statistically significantly less amounts of cohesion in the family environment than both the 18q- and Control groups. The 18q- group showed similar levels of cohesion to the Control group. There were no significant differences between groups on the other two FES subscales. Findings from the study provide important information about the role of family environment and parenting stress in families of children with disabilities. Limitations of the study and implications for future research and practice are discussed.