I ran across a very interesting article the other day while perusing the recent literature on kids and glasses (yeah, I regularly read through article about kids and glasses, makes me a hit at the parties…).
“Spectacle wear in children reduces parental health-related quality of life,” published in the Journal of the AAPOS, Feb., 2011 (read the abstract here). I’ll jump straight to the conclusion before getting in to the details: when it comes to questions about vision and their eyes, parents of kids in glasses worry more than than parents of kids who don’t wear glasses. Our kids with glasses do not worry any more about their vision than their peers who don’t wear glasses.
So the details…
This was a small study, only 49 children between the ages of were 5 and 13 were recruited. The children all either had normal vision with no glasses (29 of the children) or refractive error that was corrected with glasses (20 of the children). None of the children had strabismus or other vision issues – the researchers just wanted to look at the impact of glasses on a child’s quality of life.
Each child and their parents completed two questionnaires, the Intermittent Exotropia Questionnaire, a questionnaire that asks specifically about how vision impacts their quality of life – though there are no questions about wearing glasses; and the Pediatric Quality of Life Questionnaire, which is a more general questionnaire about how kids are functioning physically, emotionally, socially, and in school. For the Intermittent Exotropia questionnaire, the child answered a set of questions, the parents answered a set of questions for the child (proxy), and then the parents answered questions about themselves. For the Pediatric Quality of Life Questionnaire, there was no questionnaire for the parents to answer for themselves.
The Intermittent Exotropia Questionnaire included things like (you can see the full questionnaire here – scroll down to the bottom of the page.) …
- Do kids tease you because of your eyes?
For parents to answer for their child (proxy):
- My child feels different from other kids because of his/her eyes.
For parents, about themselves regarding their child’s vision:
- I worry that my child will be less independent because of his/her eyes.
(There were no significant differences in answers between the two groups of children or their parents in the Pediatric Quality of life Questionnaire, so we’re not going to worry about that one.)
As I mentioned at the beginning, there was no difference in scores between kids with glasses and those without when it came to their quality of life. Basically, the kids with glasses were no more worried about their eyes or vision than those without glasses.
But when you looked at the responses by the parents, that’s where the differences stood out. First, if you looked at the proxy questions – where the parents answered for their child, four of the questions showed lower scores (lower quality of life) for kids with glasses:
- Q2. My child is bothered by people wondering what is wrong with his/her eyes;
- Q4. Kids tease my child because of his/her eyes;
- Q8. My child feels different from other kids because of his/her eyes; and
- Q9. My child worries about what other people think of him/her because of his/her eyes.
The really interesting thing here, is that the kids did not report feeling different or teased or worried about what others think of them because of their eyes. The parents were the ones who felt that their kids were encountering those things. It’s an interesting (and unanswered) question as to who is right in this case, though I’m inclined to guess that parents are projecting their own fears into their answers.
When answering for themselves about their concerns for their children, parents of kids in glasses had lower scores (p <= 0.03 for the stats people) – meaning they were more concerned – for the following statements:
- Q3. I worry the my child will have permanent damage to his/her eyes;
- Q6. I worry that my child will get hurt physically because of his/her eyes;
- Q7. I worry about the possibility of surgery;
- Q8. I worry about my child becoming self-conscious because of his/her eyes;
- Q14. I worry about my child’s eyesight longterm;
- Q16. I worry about whether or not my child should have surgery.
(Let me tell you, I can totally relate to every one of those statements there. If someone asked me to list my biggest fears when it comes to Zoe and her eyesight, it would sound really similar).
So, when you hear someone tell you that this is harder on you than it is on your child, there’s probably more than a bit of truth there. Our kids are tough, and they know that their glasses help them see, and they don’t worry about their eyesight the way we do. Which I guess is as it should be, since that worrying is our job as parents.