An investigation into the effects of childhood atopic eczema on parental stress
Very little research has examined stress among parents of children with atopic eczema, though stressful events arc widely Implicated In Its actiology. This study Investigated reported stress among 38 parents of children with atopic eczema who had received hospital out-paticnt trcatmcnt within the previous 12 months. Responses of parents on the Parenting Stress Index were compared with published norms. Significantly elevated levels of stress among the study sample were found on the Difficult Child subscale. Total stress scores showed significant positive correlations with parental reports of illness severity. The majority of parents reported problems In relation to the symptom of scratching by their child with eczema. Recent problems with scratching were also found to correlate significantly with parenting stress. A rating scale was developed to allow parents to report on situational variables they associate with increased scratching by their child with eczema. The scale was found to have good test-retest reliability over a oneto-four week period. Three of its subscales (Environmental Sensitivity, Psychological Sensitivity and Negative Coping ) showed acceptable internal consistency. A fourth subscale (Positive Coping) showed poor internal consistency. Ratings on the Negative Coping subscale correlated significantly with parenting stress. A near-significant positive correlation was also found between parenting stress and the Psychological Sensitivity subscale. The methodological limitations of the study are discussed and implications for clinical practice and future research are outlined. The thesis also includes three small-scale research projects completetd during placements In Adult Mental Health, Learning Disabilities and Child and Adolescent services.