University of Leicester researcher leading project to boost children’s understanding of their parents’ arthritis

Posted by hct16 at Dec 18, 2012 02:25 PM |
Psychologists to examine how information on arthritis should be communicated to children

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office 18 December 2012

Researchers at the University of Leicester are aiming to produce information about arthritis aimed at children whose parents are living with the painful condition.

Elizabeth Hale, based at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, has been awarded £30,000 from medical research charity Arthritis Research UK to find out what kinds of information could be useful to youngsters aged between seven and eleven years, whose mother or father is affected by inflammatory arthritis.

Ms Hale, a health psychologist for The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, will collaborate with colleagues at the University of Leicester to build on earlier research which suggests that adults with inflammatory arthritis find it difficult to speak to their children about their condition.

One in six people in the UK are affected by arthritis but many parents worry that discussing this with their children could be upsetting to them.

Through interviewing a number of families over two years, the study will examine how parents and children talk to one another about arthritis, focusing particularly on the child’s perceptions of the condition.

It is hoped that the study will highlight the need for development of educational resources targeted specifically at children aged seven to eleven years, while providing insight about how, when and by whom this information should be delivered.

Ms Hale said: “Being diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis or lupus, is an unsettling prospect for any patient, but the impact it can also have on their children should not be underestimated. Children are likely to be anxious about their parents’ welfare and this worry could easily have a negative impact on their lives, affecting schoolwork or causing behavioural changes.

“Developing a range of appropriate educational resources could play a vital role in helping children to better understand their parents’ condition and empower them to ask questions that they might otherwise be nervous about asking.  Equally, providing parents with some guidelines about how to broach such a difficult subject could also be beneficial to the overall psychological well-being of the family.”

Ms Hale currently works both on a one-to-one basis and in group settings with patients who have a range of rheumatic diseases. She has developed an education programme for patients with early rheumatoid arthritis, which has input from the multidisciplinary rheumatology team.

Professor Panos Vostanis, of the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology, said: “The needs of children of parents with a chronic physical illness are often not recognised, consequently are not being met by appropriate services. Such recognition and understanding requires evidence based on children’s perceptions and experiences.

“Michelle O’Reilly and I are building on previous studies with children of different ages in the collaborative study with Elizabeth Hale from Dudley NHS Trust, towards her PsyD at the University of Leicester.”


For more information, please contact Zoe Blackburn, Communications Assistant at Arthritis Research UK:, 0207 7307 2259.

Arthritis Research UK
Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions.

It is the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. For more information visit

Share this page: