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social support, stress, coping, caregivers



  1. Hansell, Phyllis Shanley
  2. Hughes, Cynthia B.
  3. Caliandro, Gloria
  4. Russo, Phyllis
  5. Budin, Wendy C.
  6. Hartman, Bruce
  7. Hernandez, Olga C.


Background: Caring for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected child is challenging and affects the entire family system. Studies have shown that social support can mitigate caregiver stress and enhance coping; however, social support may not always result in a positive outcome for the recipient.


Objectives: To measure caregiver stress, coping, and social support, and to test the effect of a social support boosting intervention on levels of stress, coping, and social support among caregivers of children with HIV/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).


Methods: An experimental design was used with monthly social support boosting interventions implemented. The stratified randomized sample included 70 primary caregivers of children with HIV/AIDS. The sample strata were seropositive caregivers (biological parents) and seronegative caregivers(foster parents and extended family members). Study measures included the Derogatis Stress Profile, Family Crisis Oriented Personal Evaluation Scale, and the Tilden Interpersonal Relationship Inventory. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and repeated measure MANOVA.


Results: Statistically significant differences between the experimental and control groups were found on changes in the dependent variables over time when caregiver strata were included as a factor in the analysis; no statistically significant results were found when caregiver strata were combined. UnivariateF tests indicated that the level of social support for caregivers who were seronegative in the experimental group was significantly different from seronegative caregivers in the control group and seropositive caregivers in both groups. No significant treatment group differences were found for seropositive caregivers.


Conclusions: Seronegative caregivers derived substantial benefit from the social support boosting intervention. Seronegative caregivers who acquire a child with HIV/AIDS are confronted with a complex stressful situation; the critical need to enhance their social support is achievable through the intervention tested in this study.