Objective: Caregivers of young children with chronic illnesses are at high risk for elevated levels of stress and mental health symptoms. This study examined stress and mental health symptoms as well as the socioeconomic status (SES) and home environments of a cohort of caregivers of infants and toddlers with sickle cell disease (SCD).
Methods: Forty-two caregivers of infants and toddlers (aged 1-34 months) with SCD completed the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) and Parent Stress Index (PSI). The Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) was used to assess family living environments.
Results: Compared to test norms, caregivers reported high levels of situational/demographic life stress [mean difference (MD) 5.7, p = .003] and child distractibility/hyperactivity (MD 3.62, p = .001) on the PSI. However, no significant differences in psychological symptoms of distress were noted on the BSI. Caregivers scored significantly lower than norms on PSI subdomains of acceptability (MD -1.88, p = .03), competence (MD -3.11, p = .002), depression (MD -3.94, p < .001), and the overall parent domain (MD -12.55, p = .005). Significant correlations were found between PSI scores and the HOME and between SES and the HOME.
Conclusion: Caregivers of infants and toddlers with SCD experience elevated levels of life stress but, in turn, endorse high acceptance of their child and self-competence in parenting. Although life stress may be high in this population, symptoms of psychological distress were not identified. Caregivers reporting elevated life and illness-specific stressors may benefit from environmental supports and interventions.