Objective: The purpose of this study was to prospectively examine the long-term effects of the pediatric intensive care unit experience on parents and on family adaptation.
Design: A three-group prospective, comparison, convenience sample was used in this study.
Setting: The study took place in a midwestern university-affiliated tertiary pediatric medical center.
Subjects: Three groups of parents (parents with children in the pediatric intensive care unit, parents with children in a general care unit, and parents with nonhospitalized ill children) were studied. The children were ages 5 years or younger.
Outcome measures: Indicators of family adaptation included parental stress, stress symptoms, family functioning, and life events.
Results: The mothers' stress symptoms in all groups were more prevalent than a normative sample, and they perceived their families as dysfunctional after discharge from the hospital. Slope analysis was used to examine the patterns of stress symptoms and family functioning and indicated little directional change over time for the mothers.
Conclusion: Despite the smaller than expected sample sizes over time, results suggest that parents are still having stress-related symptoms and difficulties with family functioning as long as 6 months after a child's illness event.