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When Mom Has a Migraine: Study Sheds Light on Children’s Perspective

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Children of parents who suffer from migraines are likely to feel the burden of the disease and seek out information on care, according to a study that considers the impact of migraine on family structure.

Lead author Elizabeth Seng, PhD, a research assistant professor of neurology at the Montefiore Headache Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, presented the findings at the 60th Annual Scientific Meeting for the American Headache Society.

The study looked the impact of the disease on family structure. About 40 dyads (a parent and child between ages 11–17) were asked a series of questions looking at the diagnosis of migraine and psychological impact. Most of the parents in the study were married and all but one were mothers.

They found that the child’s understanding of the disease mostly came from parents themselves. Also, the perceived impact of the disease on the family was slightly different between what the child sees and what the parents found.

While previous research examines the family impact of the disease, the study was the first to try to see the impact from the child’s perspective as well. Notably, more than half of the participating children asked for additional information on providing care to their parents.

“It’s important to quantify the impact to the degree it has on family, and there really wasn’t a lot of evidence to show that that occurred,” said Noah Rosen, MD, co-author of the study and program director of neurology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra-Northwell Health. “It’s really suggestive how the disease affect more than just the individual.”

Specifically, children of parents with migraines were more likely to skip family events and would spend significantly less quality time with parents — both of which can affect child development.

“The study means it’s worthwhile to identify patients that have children to engage the children as well in treatment and care to make sure that they understand the condition not just from the parents’ perspective,” Dr. Rosen commented.

The research study, “When mom has a migraine: An observational study of the burden of parental migraine on children,” was presented at the 60th Annual Scientific Meeting for the American Headache Society.

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