Parenting a Child with Phenylketonuria: An Investigation into the Factors That Contribute to Parental Distress

  • Olivia Ambler
  • Emma Medford
  • Dougal J. HareEmail author
Research Report
Part of the JIMD Reports book series (JIMD, volume 41)


Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an inherited metabolic condition that can lead to the onset of intellectual disabilities if not strictly managed through a low-protein diet. Parents are responsible for supervising their child’s treatment for PKU, which may impact on their experience of distress. This cross-sectional study aimed to identify the factors that contribute to distress in parents who care for a child with PKU, distinct from parents in the general population. Thirty-eight parents of children and adolescents with PKU and 32 parents in the general population completed the questionnaires measuring parental psychological resilience, child behaviour problems, perceived social support and distress. Parents of children with PKU also completed measures of their child’s care dependency and behaviour related to developmental and intellectual disabilities. The findings revealed no statistically significant differences in distress between the groups, but parents of children with PKU reported more child behaviour problems. Multiple regression analysis identified that parental psychological resilience and child anxious behaviour explained 35% of the variance in distress for parents of children with PKU. By comparison, parental psychological resilience and generic child behaviour only accounted for 19% of the variance in distress for parents in the general population. This has implications for developing interventions in clinical settings that aim to reduce parents’ distress by enhancing their psychological resilience and supporting them to manage child behaviour difficulties, particularly anxious behaviour. Future research should include larger, more diverse samples and use longitudinal study designs.


Behaviour Distress Parents Phenylketonuria Resilience 


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Copyright information

© Society for the Study of Inborn Errors of Metabolism (SSIEM) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Child and Adolescent Mental Health ServicesDoncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation TrustDoncasterUK

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