Positive effects outweigh negative for families of children with cleft lip and palate

May 20, 2009
Study indicates that, contrary to previous reports, families who have children with cleft lip and palate note more positive than negative experiences.

Contrary to previous reports, families who have children with cleft lip and palate report more positive than negative experiences, according to a study in The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal.

Most of the previous research on CLP has focused on individuals with CLP and not on their families. In addition, previous work has focused on the negative aspects of having CLP as opposed to the positive.

The journal report applied the resiliency model of family stress, adjustment and adaptation to better understand the effect of CLP, or what the model would call a "life stressor," on families.

Questionnaires were completed by family members. They were questioned about their views on coping strategies, social support, psychological distress, adjustment and family impact. The results differed from those of other reports.

For example, positive adjustment outweighed psychological distress. Levels of social support were much higher, and there was a much greater use of approach-oriented coping strategies, as opposed to avoidance strategies.

Regardless of whether the outcomes reported were positive or negative, they were all dependent on the level of social support. Those who had confidants to speak with, who experienced a sense of belonging through engaging in various activities, and who were able to receive practical and tangible help fared much better than those without this support.

Families whose children were younger and had multiple medical problems experienced a greater impact from CLP; however, contrary to other reports, coping strategies and levels of support were not affected by these conditions. Social support was present regardless of the child's age.

The results of this study will help researchers develop strategies to assist families with children with CLP. They will also serve to improve the morale of families by showing them ways their lives may be positively affected when faced with this challenging situation.

For more information, visit American Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Association.

To read more about the ACPA, go to American Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Association.

To comment on this topic, go to PennWell Dental Community site.