Background: Over 30,000 people in the U.S. have Huntington’s disease (HD), a disorder with numerous complicated, long-lasting and stigmatizing symptoms. Caregiving typically falls to the family, yet little is known about the caregiving experience of children and adolescents in the home.
Objective: Guided by the stress process model, this exploratory study sought to describe children and adolescents who care for a parent with HD and their caregiving experience, by detailing previously unknown relationships between caregiving, parent/child conflict, school problems, and psychological well-being of child/adolescent caregivers.
Methods: This cross-sectional study used semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 40 children and adolescents, aged 12–20, who care for a parent with HD. Data was analyzed using descriptive and correlational statistics. Measures included the Children’s’ Depression Inventory, The Conflict Behavior Questionnaire, and the Multidimensional Assessment of Caring Activities.
Results: Study participants have substantial caregiving responsibilities (>11), with half providing personal care to a parent. The majority experienced school problems and conflict with parents (60 and 92 % respectively). Caregiving tasks were associated with problems with school and conflict with the ill parent. Furthermore, parental symptoms were associated with poor psychological wellbeing, parental conflict, and school problems for the caregivers.
Conclusion: Children and adolescents are involved in numerous tasks and describe difficulties with their daily life and well-being. Results highlight the need for the development of support services for caregivers, as well best care practices for problematic HD symptoms. Study outcomes address minimizing the potential for negative caregiving experiences of these vulnerable caregivers.