The role of maternal distress in the report of behavioral and emotional problems among children with chronic disabilities

Tamar Silberg, Amichai Brezner, Gilad Gal, Jaana Ahonniska-Assa, Miriam Levav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Assessments of psychological symptoms in children often rely on caregivers’ (usually mothers’) reports. However, the reliability may be affected by the caregivers’ own emotional distress (ED). The main objectives of this study were to assess the variability in ED of mothers of children with chronic physical disabilities, and its association with the ratings of their children’s emotional and behavioral problems. Methods: Medical data of children diagnosed with chronic disabilities were analyzed (N = 72). Mothers completed the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (12-GHQ) to measure ED and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) to assess children’s emotional and behavioral problems Mothers’ ED scores were compared with communitybased counterparts with similar socio-demographic characteristics (N = 657) from the Israel National Health Survey (INHS). Results: Mothers of children with chronic physical disabilities had higher levels of ED compared to mothers in the general population. About 20% of the sample mothers had 12-GHQ scores compatible with DSM- IV depression or anxiety disorders. No differences in ED were found according to the type of child’s disability or IQ score. Marked differences in CBCL scores were reported by mothers with high versus low ED, controlling for baseline maternal and child characteristics. Conclusions: High levels of maternal ED were associated with mothers’ reports on child’s behavioral and emotional problems.This may contaminate the reliability of parental reports on their child’s psychological state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
JournalIsrael Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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