ORLANDO – Siblings of children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) had higher levels of anxiety than children from JIA-free homes, researchers reported here.
On the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale, significant increases in score were found among girl siblings and among children under 10 years of age, said Maria Cusano-Sanzo, RN, DNP-RN, from research she performed as a doctoral student at Sacred Heart University, Trumbull, Conn. She is now a rheumatology clinic coordinator at Genentech.
In her poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Rheumatology Nurses Society, Cusano-Sanzo said that the siblings of children with arthritis “scored approximately 10.6 points higher than children without arthritis in the family which is highly [clinically] significant.” The Spence scale is a screening tool, and a 10-point difference could trigger specialist referral for treating anxiety.
“This suggests that, as a group, siblings of children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis may be at higher risk of experiencing anxiety than non-clinical children,” Cusano-Sanzo said. “Pediatric chronic illness can have a tremendous impact on children and their parents. Education and support is typically focused on the child and parents of those newly diagnosed with diabetes, cancer, renal failure, asthma, arthritis and other illnesses of childhood, often leaving siblings out of this important aspect.”
She recruited 27 children for the project, 12 girls and 15 boys, all 8-15 years old. The children completed the 44-item Spence questionnaire. Their parents completed a demographic survey. Ten of the children were ages 8-10; 6 were ages 11-12; 11 were ages 13-15.
Cusano-Sanzo said that her study implies that “practice policy changes should be made to incorporate siblings in the education of disease states not only for juvenile idiopathic arthritis but other chronic diseases as well.”