Does fatigue and distress in a clinical cohort of adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome correlate with fatigue and distress in their parents?

Maria Loades, Katherine Rimes, Sheila Ali, Kate Lievesley, Trudie Chalder

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Previous studies have found that parents of children with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are more fatigued, and mothers are more distressed than healthy controls. Managing the disabling symptoms of CFS can result in disruption and burden for the family. Most research has focused on mothers. This study sought to further explore the associations between adolescent fatigue and distress and parental fatigue and distress, as well as family functioning, including both mothers and fathers.

Cross‐sectional study of a clinical cohort of consecutive attenders at a specialist chronic fatigue unit.

Questionnaires were completed by adolescents (N = 115, age 11–18) with a confirmed diagnosis of CFS and their mothers (N = 100) and fathers (N = 65).

Maternal fatigue was significantly correlated with maternal distress, but not with adolescent fatigue, depression, anxiety, or functioning. This pattern held true for paternal fatigue. Maternal and paternal anxiety and depression were significantly correlated with family functioning. Paternal and maternal distress were correlated with each other. Mothers and fathers tended to have a consistent view of family functioning. Family functioning, specifically being overwhelmed by difficulties and scoring lower on strengths and adaptability, was positively associated with adolescent depression. Unexpectedly, higher levels of adolescent fatigue and poorer physical functioning were associated with better family functioning as rated by the mother.

Parents of adolescents with fatigue scored near to or within normative range for non‐clinical samples on distress, fatigue, and family functioning. Parental distress may contribute to or result from poorer family functioning. Family functioning, particularly building strengths and adaptability, may be clinically important in CFS, as well as attending to parental (particularly paternal) distress in families where adolescents are low in mood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number1
Early online date20 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • CFS
  • adolescents
  • distress
  • family functioning
  • fatigue
  • parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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