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Study examines effect of child's cleft lip on family outlook

Families who have children with cleft lip and palate report more positive than negative experiences, according to a study in The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal.

Cleft lip and cleft palate, commonly known as CLP, are birth defects that occur when the tissues that form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip fail to join before birth. According to the March of Dimes, about 6,800 children in the United States are born with CLP each year.

Most previous research on CLP has focused on individuals with CLP — as opposed to their families — and has predominantly examined the negative aspects of having CLP as opposed to the positive, according to the authors of this latest study. They applied a model called the resiliency model of family stress, adjustment and adaptation to better understand the effect of CLP on families.

Family members of children with CLP were questioned about their views on coping strategies, social support, psychological distress, adjustment and family impact. The authors found that the way having a child with CLP impacted family members' lives was dependent on the level of social support they received. Those who had confidants to speak with, who experienced a sense of belonging through engaging in various activities, and who were able to receive practical and tangible help fared much better than those without such support.

Families whose children were younger and had multiple medical problems experienced a greater impact from CLP. However, contrary to other reports, coping strategies and levels of support were not affected by these conditions. Social support was present regardless of the child's age, according to the authors.

The results of this study may help researchers develop strategies to assist families with children with CLP and improve the morale of families by showing them ways their lives may be positively affected when faced with this challenging situation, the authors said.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

6/1/2009

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