Early versus late diagnosis: psychological impact on parents of children with cystic fibrosis

Pediatrics. 2003 Feb;111(2):346-50. doi: 10.1542/peds.111.2.346.


Objectives: To explore the relationship between the period preceding diagnosis and the way parents of children with cystic fibrosis (CF) experience and handle their child's disease.

Design: A retrospective study.

Setting: CF Center "Noordwest Nederland," the Netherlands.

Participants: Participants were the parents of children <13 years old with CF who were treated at the CF Center "Noordwest Nederland." The participants were divided into 2 groups according to the duration of prediagnostic period: <3 months (defined as early diagnosis) and >or=3 months (defined as late diagnosis).

Main outcome measures: Experience of the prediagnostic period, contact with the medical profession, coping, future perspective, and attitudes toward neonatal screening for CF.

Results: Parents of 55 children were eligible for study participation; 45 were enrolled. Retrospectively, the period preceding an early diagnosis was less negatively experienced by parents than the period preceding a late diagnosis. Parents of children with an early diagnosis had retrospectively more confidence in the medical profession before confirmation of diagnosis. In general, parents in this study used adaptive coping styles. Duration of prediagnostic period was not significantly related to future perspective. Hopelessness seemed to be mainly determined by a severe course of disease as experienced by the parents. Ninety-eight percent of all parents were in favor of neonatal screening for CF.

Conclusions: A short prediagnostic period is associated with less negative feelings and increased confidence in the medical profession among parents of children with CF. Neonatal screening for CF may be of benefit to parents by removing the stress of a delayed diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cystic Fibrosis / diagnosis*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family Relations
  • Fathers / psychology
  • Fathers / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Neonatal Screening*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires