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    Predicting Parent Distress

    A team of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital researchers has developed guidelines for identifying parents at higher risk for increased distress while their children are in the “acute” phase of stem cell or bone marrow transplantation. This stage covers the time from admission until six months after the procedure is completed.

    The researchers say their findings, which appear in the March issue of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, can help health care workers identify parents who might need psychological intervention to reduce their distress.

    The researchers studied 151 parents and guardians by using previously validated psychological tests that measure parental stress and moods; child behavior problems; coping; and other factors that, together, identified parents at higher risk for distress. The findings showed that parents were especially likely to suffer significant distress if both they and their children had previously undergone illness-related stress and if the children had problems cooperating with their parents.

    Parents of sicker children appeared to be most likely to suffer greater distress than parents of children who were not as ill. In addition, parents without strong family support networks suffered more distress, as did those parents who tended to cope with difficult situations by avoiding them.

    The researchers concluded that the most effective way to assess parents at higher risk for increased distress is to focus on past illnesses and treatment-related issues of the children rather than on broader aspects of parental and child behavior.

    The paper’s senior author is Shesh Rai, PhD, Biostatistics; and the first author is Sean Phipps, PhD, Behavioral Medicine. Other authors include Maggi Dunavant, Behavioral Medicine, and Shelly Lensing, Biostatistics.

    Reprinted from Local Line, February 18, 2005.


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