The Working Mechanisms of Parental Involvement in Interventions for Children with Chronic Illness

Agnes M. Willemen*, Erika Kuzminskaite, Heleen Maurice-Stam, Martha A. Grootenhuis, Bob F. Last, Carlo Schuengel, Linde Scholten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Children with chronic illness (CI) are at risk for internalizing problems, which reduce their quality of life, hamper treatment, and increase family stress. Accordingly, behavioral interventions are provided at the family level. However, the effects of parental involvement on child outcomes are not consistently beneficial. Therefore, it is relevant to study the working mechanisms. In the present study, we tested child coping and parenting stress as underlying mechanisms of the effect of an intervention for children and an additional group intervention for parents. Data were analyzed from a randomized controlled trial. Families of children with chronic illness (N = 120, child M age = 12.11 years, range 7.98–18.07) participated in a cognitive-behavioral-based group intervention and were randomized in the child-only intervention or parent–child intervention. Primary outcomes were parent- and child-reported internalizing problems, whereas the mediators were the use of child active coping skills and parenting stress. The causal model was tested with multilevel mediation analysis. Active coping skills and parenting stress stood out as significant mediators of the effect of the intervention on parent- and child-reported internalizing behavior (Cohen’s d effect size range 0.29–1.57). When parents were involved in the intervention, children increased their use of active coping skills and parents decreased in parenting stress, which in turn improved child internalizing problems. Knowing that coping skills and parenting stress underlie the benefit of involving parents can be used for optimizing interventions for children with CI and addressing the risk of internalizing problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3037-3046
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number11
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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