Peer-mentored therapy reduces distress in mothers of children with disabilities

1. Mothers attending either peer-mentored mindfulness or positive psychology group practice had significant improvement in distress, dysfunctional parent-child interactions, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and life satisfaction during treatment; however, mothers in the mindfulness group had greater improvement in anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

2. Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder showed decreased improvement in anxiety as compared to mothers of children with other disabilities.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Study Rundown: Mothers of children with disabilities have been shown to have increased stress, depression and anxiety, and poorer overall health. In this study, mothers of children with developmental disabilities were randomized into a 6-week group practice led by trained peer mentors utilizing either Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (mindfulness practice) or Positive Adult Development (positive psychology practice). Mothers in both groups experienced significant improvement in distress, dysfunctional parent-child interactions, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and life satisfaction during treatment.  Mothers in the mindfulness group had significantly greater improvement in anxiety, depression, and insomnia as compared to those in the positive psychology group. Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder had less improvement in anxiety, but otherwise showed similar improvements to mothers of children with other disabilities. From baseline to 6-month follow-up, the largest effects of therapy were seen in improving anxiety and depression.  Though this study is limited by the lack of a control group, it identifies peer-mentored therapy as an effective intervention to improve well-being of mothers caring for disabled children.

Click to read the study published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis

In-Depth [randomized trial]: Mothers of children with developmental disabilities were randomized into one of two evidenced-based interventions, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Positive Adult Development (PAD), and participated in a 6-week group practice. Among the 243 mothers, the mean age was 40.8 years, 73% were married, and 70% were white.  The mean age of their children was 10.9 years and 65% had autism spectrum disorder. At baseline, 48% of mothers reported a previous diagnosis of depressive disorder, 41% reported anxiety disorder, and 85% reported elevated stress. Standardized and validated inventories throughout treatment and 1, 3, and 6 months post-treatment. Cohen’s d formula* was utilized to calculate effect sizes. From baseline to 6-months post-treatment, anxiety (d = 0.81) and depression (d = 0.98) improved by large magnitude, though improvements were seen across all outcomes. Mothers in the MBSR group had significantly greater improvements in anxiety (d=0.88), depression (d=1.03), and insomnia (d=1.10), compared to mothers in the PAD group (d=0.44, d=0.58, d=0.26, respectively).

*Cohen’s d is a standardized measure of effect size. Generally, values from 0.2-0.5 indicate small effect, values 0.5-0.8 indicate moderate effect, and values 0.8 or greater indicate large effect. 

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Image: PD

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