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Single parents of children with chronic illness: an understudied phenomenon

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Brown, R. T.; Wiener, L.; Kupst, M. J.; Brennan, T.; Behrman, R.; Compas, B. E.; David Elkin, T.; Fairclough, D. L.; Friebert, S.; Katz, E.; Kazak, A. E.; Madan-Swain, A.; Mansfield, N.; Mullins, L. L.; Noll, R.; Patenaude, A. F.; Phipps, S.; Sahler, O. J.; Sourkes, B.; Zeltzer, L.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the chronic illness literature and evaluate the impact on single parenting and children and adolescents with chronic illness. METHODS: We conducted literature reviews of relevant research pertaining to single-parent families on PubMed, Medline, and PsychINFO and also surveyed pertinent book chapters and all of the articles from the Journal of Pediatric Psychology since 1987 for articles, specifically examining the potential associations of single (lone) parenting versus two-parent households on children’s psychosocial functioning and the impact of the child’s illness on caregiver functioning. RESULTS: While the literature has examined and discussed the stressors associated with parenting a child with an illness, including the impact of illness on finances, family roles, and caregiver burden, few studies have examined single parents of children and adolescents with chronic illnesses and related stressors stemming from being a lone caregiver. CONCLUSIONS: There is a dearth of studies examining the association between lone parenting and psychosocial functioning among children and adolescents with chronic illnesses. Specific questions necessitating future investigation are summarized and recommendations are made for future research in this important area of inquiry.

Research abstracts