Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Donna J. Habenicht

Second Advisor

Wilfred G. A. Futcher

Third Advisor

Elsie P. Jackson


Problem Statement. Research on children with a multiple sclerotic parent has been minimal and until recently focused only on negative aspects. This study investigated how families successfully cope with multiple sclerosis (MS) and how their school-age children are affected, positively or negatively.

Methodology. This research used the case study approach with intact Caucasian families, 10 where the mother was the patient and 3 families where the father was the patient. The 20 children were ages 5 through 19. Following a clinical interview, the family members responded to the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scales-II, the Family Hardiness Index and the Family Crisis Oriented Personal Scales. The children responded to age-appropriate instruments including an empathy scale, the Survey of Interpersonal Value, the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, the Human Figure Drawing, the Kinetic Family Drawing, and the Roberts Apperception Test. The schools completed the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales for the elementary children, and reported an IQ for the secondary children.

Results. The families generally appeared balanced, and functioning and coping successfully. The children seemed to be adapting adequately and had basically well-adjusted personalities. They had very positive self-concepts, particularly regarding their physical self, behavior and happiness. They had good interpersonal relationships, and generally average and above empathy. The adolescents placed very high value on altruism, high value on being supported, and little value on independence. Anxiety and aggression were above average in the adolescents, and below average and normal, respectively, for the younger children. Across the age range, they seemed to have high depressive tendencies. Two families were found to have children with serious adjustment problems.

Conclusions. Although MS creates definite stresses for a family, those who generally coped successfully before the onset of the illness continued to adapt to the new stressors. The 13 intact families in the study were coping well. The children accepted the additional responsibilities and loss of independence without apparent resentment. The children appeared to be positively and negatively affected by the parental illness. However, they appeared to be developing relatively normally, and should not be considered a problem population, but one in need of support.

Subject Area

Multiple sclerosis--Psychological aspects, Multiple sclerosis--Patients--Family relationships


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