Support groups for mothers of children with a handicap : a quantitative and qualitative study



Since 2013, the community-based rehabilitation programme in the north of the West Bank has established nineteen support groups for mothers following a Multi-Family Approach (MFA), with technical support from the Institute of Community and Public Health (Birzeit University) and the War Trauma Foundation (Netherlands). The main aims of the programme are to improve the wellbeing of mothers who have children with a handicap, to build support networks between vulnerable families, and to counter problems associated with social isolation and stigma. The MFA intervention is monitored and evaluated through an approach called outcome mapping.


We used both quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate mothers support groups in relation to outcomes and changes in behaviours, as reported by the mothers. We used a survey to investigate support group members' satisfaction with the intervention and changes in self-reported behaviour. Group interviews were done with mothers. We obtained approval from the University Research Ethics Committee and verbal informed consent from the mothers.


51 members from seven support groups completed the survey. Four group interviews were done, including 12 mothers in total. 33 (64%) mothers reported that their participation in MFA groups leads to stress relief and having fun. 18 (36%) mothers reported that they exchanged experiences during the group sessions. Mothers attended the groups due to their desire to solve pressing practical problems that they experienced when caring for their children, to receive more community support, and to be able to leave the house to attend meetings deemed useful by their families.


The evaluation highlights the psychosocial value of support groups for mothers of children with a handicap. Having fun is an important factor ensuring regular group attendance and an indicator of improved wellbeing. Importantly, mothers were also able to experience stress relief by exchanging experiences and suggesting possible solutions in a caring and trusting environment.

Suzan Mitwalli MPH, Yoke Rabaia MPH, Hanna Kienzler PhD | 2018
In: The Lancet, ISSN 2542-5196 | 391 | supplement 2 | February | S47