Mothers with Multiple Sclerosis and Their Children: Effects of Fatigue and Exacerbations on Maternal Support

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Abstract

Background:

Mothers with multiple sclerosis (MS) often face fatigue and episodic exacerbations during their child-rearing years. These problems affect their support of their children, including physical affection. Children, depending on their age and gender, may or may not understand the changes.

Objectives:

To increase knowledge about mothers with MS concerning the relationship of fatigue and functional status to the perception of physical affection with their children, their perceptions of physical affection with their children in relation to exacerbation of their symptoms and the age and gender of their children, and the children's perceptions of their mothers' physical affection in relation to the children's age and gender and exacerbations in their mothers' symptoms.

Method:

Thirty-five mothers with relapsing-remitting MS and a child of each mother were studied, using interviews and questionnaires.

Results:

Functional status and fatigue were not significant predictors of physical affection during an exacerbation. When the mothers' symptoms were stable, perceptions of mothers and children with respect to maternal physical affection was similar. Significant changes were reported in both the mothers' perceptions of their physical affection and the children's perceptions of their mothers' physical affection during exacerbations. There was a significant difference between the perceptions of the mothers and children regarding the magnitude of that change. Mothers significantly underestimated changes in their physical affection.

Conclusion:

Physical affection was selected as an important aspect of family functioning that could be affected by characteristics of illness, including exacerbations, fatigue, and functional status. However, fatigue and functional status did not explain the perception of physical affection during an exacerbation.

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