Parenting a child with Marfan syndrome: Distress and everyday problems

Jessica Warnink-Kavelaars, Hedy A van Oers, Lotte Haverman, Annemieke I Buizer, Mattijs W Alsem, Raoul H H Engelbert, Leonie A Menke

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Marfan syndrome (MFS) is a multisystemic, autosomal dominant connective tissue disorder that occurs de novo in 25%. In many families, parent and child(ren) are affected, which may increase distress in parents. To assess distress, 42 mothers (29% MFS) and 25 fathers (60% MFS) of 43 affected children, completed the validated screening-questionnaire Distress thermometer for parents of a chronically ill child, including questions on overall distress (score 0-10; ≥4 denoting "clinical distress") and everyday problems (score 0-36). Data were compared to 1,134 control-group-parents of healthy children. Mothers reported significantly less overall distress (2, 1-4 vs. 3, 1-6; p = .049; r = -.07) and total everyday problems (3, 0-6 vs. 4, 1-8; p = .03; r = -.08) compared to control-group-mothers. Mothers without MFS reported significantly less overall distress compared to mothers with MFS, both of a child with MFS (1, 0-4 vs. 3.5, 2-5; p = .039; r = -.17). No significant differences were found between the father-groups, nor between the group of healthy parents of an affected child living together with an affected partner compared to control-group-parents. No differences in percentages of clinical distress were reported between mothers and control-group-mothers (33 vs. 42%); fathers and control-group-fathers (28 vs. 32%); nor between the other groups. Distress was not associated with the children's MFS characteristics. Concluding, parents of a child with MFS did not show more clinical distress compared to parents of healthy children. However, clinical distress was reported in approximately one-third and may increase in case of acute medical complications. We advise monitoring distress in parents of a child with MFS to provide targeted support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-59
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics Part A
Issue number1
Early online date9 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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