Background: Pediatric medical experiences are potentially traumatic but may lead to psychological growth.
Objective: The study objective was to synthesize the published literature regarding posttraumatic growth (PTG) in parents and patients with serious pediatric illness (SPI) into a conceptual model.
Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsychInfo, and Sociological Abstracts in December 2012 to identify articles on stress or trauma caused by medical events with PTG as an outcome, reviewing articles pertaining to the pediatric population. We additionally reviewed articles outside pediatric medicine that described a model of PTG.
Results: Of the 605 articles identified, 55 met inclusion criteria, 26 of which examined parents or pediatric patients. Parents and children may experience PTG following medical trauma through a combination of cognitive and affective processing of their subjective experience. Components of SPI-PTG are unclear, but may include greater appreciation of life, improved interpersonal relationships, greater personal strength, recognition of new possibilities in one's life course, spiritual or religious growth, and reconstruction of a positive body image. Individual characteristics, and the level of social support, may affect the likelihood that SPI-PTG will occur. SPI-PTG in siblings and other family members has not been well studied.
Conclusions: SPI-PTG is an important but understudied and inadequately understood phenomenon affecting children with SPI and their family members. Research should focus on clarifying SPI-PTG domains, creating measurement instruments, assessing SPI-PTG across the pediatric age range and among family members, and improving our understanding of and ability to positively intervene regarding the cognitive processes of rumination, sense making, and benefit finding.