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Study Reveals Benefits of Having Sick Children

Update Date: Apr 25, 2014 06:31 PM EDT

New research reveals that there are some benefits of having children with severe illnesses.

While the challenges of caring for severely sick children are numerous, life changing and stress inducing, a new study reveals that the overwhelming majority of parents reported positive outcomes. Researchers describe this phenomenon as posttraumatic growth.

"What is pivotal is the meaning the parents make-what it means to them to be a parent who is doing more than parenting: they are care-giving as well," lead author Professor Susan Cadell of the School of Social Work at Renison University College at Waterloo said in a news release.  "For many parents this means learning a great deal about their child's illness, the treatment and sometimes it includes advocating for themselves and others in similar circumstances."

The study involved more than 270 parents of children under the age of 20. All children were living in Canada and the United States, and were suffering serious diseases and conditions like cancer, severe cerebral palsy and irreversible organ failure.

The study revealed that parents spent more than 62 hours a week as caregivers. Many of the parents reported that they had to change their employment status after their children had been diagnosed, and had struggled in managing cost.

Even so, researchers found that caregivers reported growth. Researchers assessed participants' growth by using by the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), a common tool used to measure positive aspects of stressful situations.

"The findings indicate that there are a variety of positive aspects in a population where we think not much positive at all is happening," Cadell said in a statement. "Our response rate was high because people wanted to talk about their children, families and relationships. This research has the potential to positively impact support for care-giving parents."

The findings were published in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

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