Family communication in the context of pediatric epilepsy: A systematic review

S O'Toole, A Benson, V Lambert, P Gallagher, A Shahwan, J K Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In childhood chronic illness, family communication can impact the child's and parents' psychosocial well-being. However, little is known about family communication in the context of epilepsy in childhood. The aim of this systematic review was to identify the existing evidence available on communication strategies adopted by families living with childhood epilepsy, including; the facilitators, barriers and challenges experienced by families when choosing to communicate, or not, about epilepsy; and the consequences of this communication. Papers published in the English language prior to March 2015 were identified following a search of six electronic databases: PubMed, MEDLINE, Web of Science, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Scopus. Studies were included if they involved a sample of parents of children with epilepsy or children/young people with epilepsy (0-18years of age) and used qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods. Following a comprehensive search and screening process, 26 studies were identified as eligible for inclusion in the review. No studies identified specific communication strategies adopted by families living with childhood epilepsy. Some studies found that talking about epilepsy with family members had positive consequences (e.g., communication as an effective coping strategy), with no negative consequences reported in any of the studies. The main barrier to communication for parents was an unwillingness to use the word "epilepsy" because of the perceived negative social connotations associated with the health condition. For children with epilepsy, barriers were as follows: parental desire to keep epilepsy a secret, parents' tendency to deny that the child had epilepsy, parental overprotection, and parents' tendency to impose greater restrictions on the child with epilepsy than on siblings without epilepsy. Future research investigating the communication strategies of families living with epilepsy is needed in order to create effective communication-based interventions for discussing epilepsy within the home.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-39
Number of pages15
JournalEpilepsy & behavior : E&B
Early online date24 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Epilepsy/therapy
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Parents


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