Family Functioning in the Context of Pediatric Chronic Conditions

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Objective:The aims were to describe and compare generic family functioning in children with five different chronic conditions and healthy comparisons, and to examine the relations between family functioning and sociodemographic variables.Methods:A secondary data analysis from six independent studies including 301 children (cystic fibrosis: n = 59; obesity: n = 28; sickle cell disease: n = 44; inflammatory bowel disease: n = 43; epilepsy: n = 70; healthy comparison group: n = 57) was conducted. In each study, parents completed the Family Assessment Device.Results:Across all five chronic conditions, between 13% and 36% of families endorsed levels of functioning in the “unhealthy” range, with the greatest proportions in the following domains: communication, roles, and affective involvement. No significant group (i.e., between all six groups, namely five chronic conditions as well as healthy comparisons) differences were observed on Family Assessment Device scales (model F [35, 1335] = 0.81, p = .79). Older child age, fewer children living in the home, and lower household income were significantly related to poorer family functioning in the areas of communication, roles, affective involvement, and general functioning.Conclusions:Families of children with and without chronic conditions do not differ significantly from each other on generic family functioning. However, risk factors for poor family functioning include older child age, less children in the home, and lower household income. These risk factors combined with data suggesting that a subset of families exhibit “unhealthy functioning” warrants the need for close monitoring of how families function in the context of a pediatric condition.

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