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Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2010 Dec;13(4):384-97. doi: 10.1007/s10567-010-0074-z.

Problem behavior in children of chronically ill parents: a meta-analysis.

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Research Institute of Child Development and Education, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The aim of this meta-analysis is to examine whether children of chronically ill parents differ from norm groups in problem behavior. We report moderator effects and overall effect sizes for internalizing, externalizing and total problem behavior assessed by children and parents. In fixed effect models, we found a significant overall effect size for internalizing problem behavior (number of studies k = 19, total sample size N = 1,858, Cohen's d = .23, p < .01) and externalizing problem behavior (k = 13, N = 1,525, d = .09, p < .01) but not for total problem behavior (k = 7; N = 896). Effects for internalizing and externalizing problem behavior were larger in non-cancer studies, in samples including younger children and younger ill parents, in samples defined by low average SES and in studies including parents with longer illness duration. In addition, effects for externalizing problem behavior were larger in studies characterized by a higher percentage of ill mothers and single parents. With exclusive self-report, effect sizes were significant for all problem behaviors. Based on these results, a family-centered approach in health care is recommended.

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