Objective:To assess parental stress levels of mothers of children less than 6 years old with eczema and compare these levels with those reported for other chronic childhood illnesses.
Methods:Mothers were recruited from hospital based out-patient clinics (55%) or while their child was an in-patient (45%) for management of eczema. Maternal stress was measured utilising the Parenting Stress Index-Long Form (PSI) in 33 mothers. The severity of the eczema at the time of interview was documented by the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) score and the Investigators’ Global Assessment (IGA) score.
Results:The children with eczema had a mean age of 2.8 years. Mothers of children aged 5 years or less with eczema exhibited significantly higher total stress scores (mean PSI 259.6, 95% CI 244.9-274.3) as compared to mothers of normal children(PSI 222.8 95% CI 221.4-224.2 ) and children with other chronic disorders such as insulin-dependent diabetes(PSI 218.1 95% CI 204.7-231.6) and profound deafness( PSI 221.7 95% CI 206.4-237.0). Stress scores in the parental domain (138.2 95% CI 128.9-147.6) did not differ significantly from children with severe disabilities such as those requiring home enteral feeding(135.2 95% CI 129.3-141.1) and those with Rett syndrome(132.8 95% CI 125.0-140.6).
Conclusions: Moderate to severe childhood eczema should be regarded as a significant illness in which maternal stress is equivalent to that associated with the care of children with severe developmental and physical problems in childhood.