The Relationship Between Physical Health and Meaning in Life Among Parents of Special Needs Children


  • Janna Bekenkamp
  • Hinke Anita Klasina Groothof
  • Wim Bloemers
  • Welko Tomic


Whereas former research has studied the psychological health of parents raising a special needs child (a child with a disability or chronic disease), the present study focused on their perceived physical health in relation to meaning in life. Specifically, it was investigated whether physical health is positively related to the meaning in life dimensions self-actualization, self-acceptance and self-transcendence. Visitors of Dutch internet forums (N = 115) completed the Existential Fulfillment Scale and an inventory of subjective health, the VOEG-21. Parents of special needs children were found to suffer more health problems than the average population. In addition, self-actualization and self-acceptance were positively related to their perceived physical health. For self-transcendence, however, a negative relationship was established. The perceived poor health of these parents raising a special needs child implies a need for interventions for this group. The Existential Fulfillment Scale appears to be a useful instrument for identifying those parents in need of such interventions. Self-actualization and self-acceptance seem to be relevant subjects for therapeutic interventions and further research.