Family Functioning and Health-Related Quality of Life in Parents of Children with Mental Illness

J Child Fam Stud. 2023 Feb 25:1-12. doi: 10.1007/s10826-023-02556-6. Online ahead of print.


Previous research suggests that family dysfunction may be related to lower health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in parent caregivers, but it is unknown if this association exists in the context of child mental illness. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to compare HRQoL between parent caregivers and Canadian population norms using the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36); examine associations between family functioning and parental HRQoL; and investigate whether child and parental factors moderate associations between family functioning and parental HRQoL. Cross-sectional data were collected from children receiving mental healthcare at a pediatric hospital and their parents (n = 97). Sample mean SF-36 scores were compared to Canadian population norms using t-tests and effect sizes were calculated. Multiple regression was used to evaluate associations between family functioning and parental physical and mental HRQoL, adjusting for sociodemographic and clinical covariates. Proposed moderators, including child age, sex, and externalizing disorder, and parental psychological distress, were tested as product-term interactions. Parents had significantly lower physical and mental HRQoL versus Canadian norms in most domains of the SF-36, and in the physical and mental component summary scores. Family functioning was not associated with parental physical HRQoL. However, lower family functioning predicted lower parental mental HRQoL. Tested variables did not moderate associations between family functioning and parental HRQoL. These findings support the uptake of approaches that strive for collaboration among healthcare providers, children, and their families (i.e., family-centered care) in child psychiatry settings. Future research should explore possible mediators and moderators of these associations.

Keywords: Caregiver; Family functioning; Family-centered care; Parent; Quality of life.