Primary objectives: To assess parental stress following paediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI), and examine the relationship between self-reported problems, parental stress and general health.
Research design: Parents of 97 children admitted with a TBI (49 mild, 19 moderate, 29 severe) to North Staffordshire National Health Service Trust, and parents of 31 uninjured children were interviewed and assessed.
Methods and procedures: Structured interviews were carried out with families, and parents assessed on the Parenting Stress Index (PSI/SF) and General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) at recruitment, and repeated 12 months later.
Main outcomes and results: Forty parents (41.2%) of children with TBI exhibited clinically significant stress. Regardless of injury severity, parents of injured children suffered greater stress than control parents as measured by the PSI/SF (p = 0.001). There was a highly significant relationship between number of problems reported and level of parental stress (p = 0.001). Financial burden was related to severity of TBI. At follow-up, one third of parents of children with severe TBI scored > or =18 on the GHQ-12, signifying poor psychological health.
Conclusions: The parents of a child with serious TBI should be screened for abnormal levels of stress. Parental stress and family burden may be alleviated by improved information, follow-up and support.