This study examined changes in stress in 37 mothers/caregivers of children with chronic feeding problems. Stress was measured by the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form at three specific stages during pediatric hospitalization for treatment of chronic feeding problems. The relationship between caregiver stress and stage of hospitalization as well as that between stress and various child and family variables were investigated. Repeated-measures analyses of variance and t tests found that stress related to social isolation and self-perception and total parenting stress changed significantly in relation to the stage of hospitalization. Correlational analyses indicated that caregiver stress was positively related to the presence of mental retardation, oral-motor dysfunction, tonal abnormalities, or a pervasive developmental disorder in the hospitalized child. Caregiver stress was negatively related to coping strategies that involved understanding the child's medical situation. These results provide a more comprehensive picture of families of children with chronic feeding problems, a population that has received little attention in the research literature. Information regarding parent/caregiver stress during a child's hospitalization can enhance nurses' understanding of the experiences of these families, thereby contributing to more effective treatment planning. In addition, the results emphasize the need to examine a variety of child and family factors that may influence parenting stress as well as family involvement in intervention services.
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