MONDAY, Oct. 31, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Women diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be overprotective of their child's gastrointestinal complaints, a new study finds.
A child's birth order can also affect how their mothers respond to their symptoms, the researchers said.
In some cases, overprotection on the part of mothers may actually exacerbate pediatric illness, or cause youngsters to unnecessarily miss school, the researchers added.
Researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, interviewed 342 children of 228 mothers, 112 of whom had a diagnosis of IBS. The children completed a questionnaire measuring parental solicitousness. For example, the children were asked if their parents let them stay home from school if they had a stomachache.
The results showed that the children's perceptions of parental protectiveness differed according to birth order. Second- and third-born children perceived greater parental protectiveness than did only children, the researchers found. However, this effect was only evident for children of mothers with IBS, not for children of mothers who did not have the chronic illness.
Previous research found that children whose mothers were more responsive to illness complaints reported more severe stomachaches and more missed school days due to stomachaches.
"Future research is needed to examine how parents respond to children in a more 'protective' but potentially problematic way. Well-intended protectiveness may actually reinforce illness behavior rather than wellness behavior. As a result, children could miss more school or report more symptoms," study author Shelby L. Langer said in a prepared statement.
The findings were presented Monday at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting in Honolulu.
The Nemours Foundation has information on GI infections and diarrhea.