Developing Content for Skills and Support Interventions for Mothers and Fathers of Children with Feeding Disorders
The present study was designed to gather information on how both mothers and fathers are impacted by their child’s feeding disorder as a precursor to the development of skills and support groups that are useful and relevant to both parents. Recent studies highlight that fathers play an important role in a child’s upbringing and both impact and are impacted by their child’s feeding disorder (Gueron-Sela et al., 2011; Piepenstock, 2010). Feeding disorders are treated systemically and therefore need to include both parents in the child’s treatment. This study used a quantitative, questionnaire based, independent groups design, where mother and father scores were compared on a range of variables identified as being relevant to feeding disorders. These included; anxiety, depression, loneliness, parenting stress and coping. A further aim of the study was to determine whether child and parent characteristics lead to different outcomes on the identified variables and therefore highlight which aspects need to be given greater weighting in potential group interventions. Thirty-six matched mother-father pairs completed the questionnaires in full. A series of calculations, Wilcoxon Rank Tests and regressions were conducted. Whilst mother scores were higher on each of the variables, it was of note that equal numbers of mothers and father scored above clinical cut-off for depressive symptoms (six of each), indicating that parental mental health should be addressed within support groups. A further finding was that a significant proportion of both mothers and fathers report feeling isolated when parenting a child with feeding disorders, this too should be addressed in groups, enabling communication within and between parent couples. This study highlighted the difficulty of both parents attending a weekday service; therefore perhaps innovative means of support could be offered, such as internet-groups facilitated by a clinician. Other findings of interest were that age of child and presence of developmental delay/Autism impacted on the severity of depressive symptoms and loneliness in both parents. It may therefore be useful to consider child age and presence of developmental delay when setting up skills and support groups. It is hoped that a parent skills and support group will be developed and trialled using information from this study.
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