Abstract

Importance: Populations already experiencing chronic stress, such as families with children who are neurologically atypical, are at particular risk for developing stress-related disease.

Objective: To establish feasibility of collecting salivary samples from pediatric occupational therapy patients and their parents in a clinical setting and at home and to examine associations among parental attachment style, parent self-reported stress, and physiological stress (i.e., cortisol) in pediatric occupational therapy patients who were neurologically atypical and their parents (N = 10 dyads).

Design: Cross-sectional pilot study to test feasibility.

Setting: Sliding-scale university clinic.

Participants: Participants were 10 children undergoing occupational therapy treatment and their parent. Families were approached and told the study was voluntary and would not affect their treatment. Families provided informed consent.

Outcomes and Measures: Parents completed measures to assess their own attachment style, general and parenting stress, and stress in their child. Children and parents provided saliva samples during an occupational therapy clinic visit and collected samples at home to measure cortisol level.

Results: Parent attachment avoidance was related to increased parent cortisol levels in the clinic and increased child cortisol levels at home. Parent and child cortisol levels had a strong, positive relationship in the clinic but not at home. We did not observe a difference between cortisol levels in children or parents in the clinic or at home.

Conclusions and Relevance: We concluded that this protocol is feasible and provide suggestions for future research.

What This Article Adds: Stress physiology in pediatric occupational therapy clients should be considered within the context of the family system. Family-based interventions may be particularly helpful for reducing client stress in this population.

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