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The “make or break” impact of family dynamics on psychological outcomes in focal epilepsy

journal contribution
posted on 2024-04-08, 04:17 authored by G Rayner, J Pieters, G Broomfield, J Eyres, Jasmine Schipp, SJ Wilson
AbstractObjectiveLiving with epilepsy can shape the dynamics of the whole family unit. The first objective of this study was to establish the reliability and validity of our purpose‐built online family mapping tool: “Living with Epilepsy.” Our second objective was to identify distinct patterns of emotional closeness between family members (family typologies), and to explore (1) whether family typologies are shaped by epilepsy‐related factors, and (2) which typologies confer optimal psychological outcomes to people with epilepsy.MethodsNinety‐one adults with chronic epilepsy and their caregivers (n = 56) participated and 70 similarly aged healthy controls and 36 caregiver controls (N = 253). Purpose‐built software assessed a range of epilepsy‐specific psychosocial issues, including family mapping. Questionnaires validated for epilepsy evaluated mood and quality of life (QOL).ResultsThe reliability and validity of the family mapping tool was established. Family maps revealed three typologies varying in emotional closeness, each with distinct patterns of healthy vs maladaptive family behavior: Extremely Close (32%), Close (54%), and Fractured (14%). There was no difference in the frequency of typology between epilepsy and control families (p > .05). Within the epilepsy cohort, however, patients with seizure onset in childhood largely belonged to the extreme typologies: Extremely Close (47%) or Fractured (42%). In comparison, those with adolescent or adult onset commonly belonged to the moderate typology: Close (53%). People with epilepsy from Extremely Close families reported significantly higher QOL (p = .013) and lower mood symptoms (p = .008) relative to other typologies; no such association was found for controls or caregivers (p > .05).SignificanceThese findings suggest that adults whose epilepsy commenced in childhood are likely to have extreme family dynamics characterized by either being brought closer together or driven apart. Extremely close families appear highly adaptive for people with epilepsy, bringing benefits for mood and QOL not seen in their caregivers or controls. The results provide strong empirical support for the value of an emotionally supportive family when living with epilepsy and suggest that fostering healthy connections within epilepsy families can optimize long‐term patient well‐being.

History

Journal

Epilepsia

Volume

64

Pagination

1873-1886

Location

London, Eng.

ISSN

0013-9580

eISSN

1528-1167

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Issue

7

Publisher

Wiley