AAAAI: Food Allergy-related Empowerment and Quality of Life in Parents of Kids with Food Allergy

As I mentioned in a recent post, this past weekend was the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in San Diego.  The meeting was fantastic, despite the fact that it was pouring rain nearly the entire time.  Yesterday, Chris Warren--a 2+ year veteran of my research team and current doctoral student at USC--presented a poster of an ongoing study which I'd like to summarize for you here.

The study attempts to answer 2 primary research questions: 1) Do mothers and fathers differ in how empowered they feel they are to manage their child's food allergy? and 2) Do parents who report greater empowerment also report greater quality of life?

In short, our study of 850+ mothers and fathers of children with food allergy found that although mothers reported significantly greater empowerment than fathers to manage their child's allergy, they suffered significantly reduced quality of life.  Moreover, this significant difference between mothers and fathers was irrespective of how severe the child's allergy was, the type of allergy, whether the child had other comorbid chronic conditions.  When we used multiple regression models to investigate the relationship between parental empowerment and quality of life we actually found no association at all between empowerment and quality of life.  When we looked at individual items of the quality of life scale, we found that the items that most adversely impacted quality of life all had to do with parental concern over accidental allergen exposure in the broader social environment where parents could not exert control over the situation (e.g. at school, daycare...etc).  Interestingly, though increased parental empowerment did not predict increased quality of life in our sample we found that parents who reported adequate social and material support to manage their child's food allergy did in fact report significantly increased quality of life. This leads us to conclude that more needs to be done in settings like schools, daycares, restaurants, and hotels to help allay parental concern about potential allergen exposure.  This study also provides evidence for the effectiveness of food allergy support groups in increasing parental food allergy-related quality of life.