Psychological consequences of pediatric burns from a child and family perspective: a review of the empirical literature

Clin Psychol Rev. 2013 Apr;33(3):361-71. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2012.12.006. Epub 2013 Jan 9.


In order to inform clinical practice, we reviewed the empirical literature on emotional, behavioral and social outcomes in children with burns and their families published between 1989 and 2011. A systematic search of the literature yielded 75 articles. Qualitative synthesis of the results showed that child anxiety, traumatic stress reactions, and behavioral problems were considerably prevalent in the first months after the burn event. Among parents, high rates of posttraumatic stress, depressive symptoms, and guilt feelings were found. Cross-sectional studies, often performed many years after the injury, suggest that some children experience long-term psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, and difficulties with social functioning. However, there was little evidence that behavior in general, self-esteem, or body image were impaired in the total population of children with a history of burns. Long-term family outcome studies suggest that psychological problems persist in a substantial subgroup of parents. Child peritraumatic factors anxiety and pain, parental posttrauma psychological reactions, and family functioning were the most consistently reported factors associated with child outcome. More recent studies have demonstrated that burn severity may have an indirect effect on child postburn psychosocial outcome. Clinical implications, methodological strengths and limitations of the reviewed studies, and directions for future research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Burns / complications
  • Burns / psychology*
  • Child
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*