Maternal outcomes of a randomized controlled trial of a community-based support program for families of children with chronic illnesses

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001 Jul;155(7):771-7. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.155.7.771.


Background: Parents of children with chronic illnesses are at high risk for secondary mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Objective: To evaluate maternal outcomes of a support intervention for families of children with selected chronic illnesses.

Design: A randomized controlled clinical trial design with repeated measures 1 year apart.

Setting: A community-based family support intervention linked to subspecialty and general pediatric clinics and practices in a metropolitan area.

Participants: A population-based sample of 193 mothers of children aged 7 to 11 years; the children were diagnosed as having diabetes, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, or moderate to severe asthma. About 15% of the persons contacted refused to participate in the research, and 14% of the families were lost to follow-up.

Intervention: The 15-month intervention, the Family-to-Family Network, was designed to enhance mothers' mental health by linking mothers of school-aged children with selected chronic illnesses with mothers of older children with the same condition. The program included telephone contacts, face-to-face visits, and special family events.

Main outcome measures: Beck Depression Inventory score and the Psychiatric Symptom Index.

Results: Maternal anxiety scores for participants in the experimental group decreased during the intervention period for all diagnostic groups and for the total group; scores for the control group increased (F = 5.07, P =.03). In multiple regression analyses, the intervention group was a significant predictor of posttest anxiety scores (P =.03). Effects were greater for mothers with high baseline anxiety (P<.001) and for those who were themselves in poor health (P<.01).

Conclusions: A family support intervention can have beneficial effects on the mental health status of mothers of children with chronic illnesses. This type of intervention can be implemented in diverse pediatric settings.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / psychology
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Asthma / psychology
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology
  • Family / psychology
  • Humans
  • Maryland
  • Mental Health*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sampling Studies
  • Social Support*
  • Treatment Outcome