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Fam Syst Health. 2009 Dec;27(4):325-45. doi: 10.1037/a0018284.

Maternal fatigue and its relationship to the caregiving environment.

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Department of Child Development and Family Relations, East Carolina University, NC, USA.


For women with an autoimmune illness, fatigue can be a debilitating symptom that impacts many aspects of their life. There is scant research on maternal fatigue and its impact on the caregiving environment for either well women or women with chronic illnesses. The objective of this study was to examine the role maternal fatigue played in the caregiving environment, specifically in the mother's experience of the daily hassles of parenting, the discipline style she employed, and how she monitored her child's whereabouts. Two-hundred sixty-two mothers participated in this study: 103 mothers with multiple sclerosis (MS), 68 mothers with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and a comparison group of 91 well mothers. Mothers completed questionnaires assessing their self-reported levels of fatigue, depression, quality and quantity of sleep, parenting daily hassles, discipline styles, and monitoring. After sleep, depression, and number of children were controlled for, fatigue explained additional variance in predicting monitoring for all three groups of mothers. Fatigue was also a significant predictor of parenting daily hassles for both well mothers and mothers with RA, but not for mothers with MS. For mothers with MS, it was the covariates (i.e., the number of children in the family and sleep quality and quantity) that were predictive of parenting daily hassles. Several explanations for mothers with MS not being as influenced by fatigue are discussed.

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