Emotional Support Among Parents of Children with Mitochondrial Disease

Emily J. Burke

Abstract


The Internet has become a place where people can seek social support15. Because social support plays an important role in parents’ of children with special needs ability to cope 31, an Internet support group for this specific population was the focus of this study. Measures of emotional support, depression, online support usage, and co-rumination were used. Both lack of emotional support from one’s spouse and high rates of Internet use have been associated with depression 12; 14. Co-rumination is a newer concept that refers to “extensively discussing and revisiting problems, speculating about problems, and focusing on negative feelings” 21. Because co-rumination is a new concept, there is not much research on co-rumination’s relationship with emotional support. Participants were recruited from an online message board for parents of children with Mitochondrial Disease and completed an online survey. Mitochondrial diseases are the result from failures of the mitochondria, which is responsible for producing energy 32. Although there has been a lot of research done on parents of children with special needs, Mitochondrial Disease is a unique illness that deserves special attention. It was hypothesized that lower levels of spousal emotional support would predict (1) higher levels of co-rumination among closest online friends, (2) more posts on the message board, and (3) higher levels of depression. Contrary to prediction, bivariate correlations indicated that levels of emotional support from participants’ spouse did not predict levels of depression or number of posts on the message board. Interestingly, lower levels of emotional support from family and from friends both predicted higher levels of depression. Higher levels of spousal emotional support were related to higher levels of co-rumination among Internet friends. Future research should investigate why spousal emotional support does not affect levels of depression the way emotional support from friends and family do. Because co-rumination is considered an “adjustment trade-off”, resulting in positive feelings about friendship but predicting later depression 22, perhaps the positive correlation found between co-rumination with Internet friends and spousal emotional support can be explained by this adjustment trade-off having positive effects on other relationships.

Keywords


Social Support; Internet Usage; Parents

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