Understanding the support needs of parents of children with obsessive-compulsive disorder: a qualitative descriptive study in the UK

Emma Sowden, Debbie Robinson, Karina Lovell, Penny Bee, Ashley Fulwood, Nicky Lidbetter, Zoe Wilson, Abi Brown, Rebecca Pedley

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Caring for a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be extremely difficult, yet evidence-based support strategies for parents/carers are limited. A detailed understanding of parent support needs is an important first step in intervention development and qualitative research with this focus is currently lacking. In this study, the viewpoints of parents and professionals were used to understand support needs and preferences when caring for a child with OCD. This qualitative descriptive study formed part of a wider UK-based project aimed at developing better support for parents of children with OCD.

Individual semi-structured interviews (and an optional one-week journal) with a purposive sample of parents of children and young people (CYP) with OCD, aged 8–18, and focus groups (or individual interviews where preferred) with a purposive sample of professionals supporting CYP with OCD. Data comprised transcripts of audio-recorded interviews and focus groups, and text from journals. Analysis was informed by the Framework approach involving inductive and deductive coding, supported by NVivo 12.0 software. Co-production methods were adopted throughout the research process, including the involvement of a parent co-researcher and charity collaborators.

Interviews were undertaken with 20 parents, of which 16 completed a journal. Twenty-five professionals took part in a focus group or interview. Five key themes relating to parent support challenges and support needs/preferences were identified (1) Coping with the impact of OCD; (2) Getting help for my child; (3) Understanding parents’ role; (4) Making sense of OCD; (5) Joined-up care.

Parents caring for children with OCD have clear caregiver support needs which are currently not being met. Through triangulation of parent and professional accounts, this study has identified parent support challenges (e.g., emotional impact of OCD, visibility of caring role, misunderstanding about OCD) and support needs/ preferences (e.g., headspace/respite, compassion/sensitivity, guidance on accommodation) to lay the vital foundations for the development of effective parent support interventions. There is now an urgent need to develop and test an intervention to support parents in their caregiving role, with the aim of preventing and/or reducing their levels of burden and distress and ultimately, improving their quality of life.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2023


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