Predictors of parent post-traumatic stress symptoms after child hospitalization on general pediatric wards: a prospective cohort study

Int J Nurs Stud. 2015 Jan;52(1):10-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.06.011. Epub 2014 Jul 5.


Objective: The aim of this study was to identify predictors of parental post-traumatic stress symptoms following child hospitalization.

Methods: In this prospective cohort study, a sample of 107 parents completed questionnaires during their child's hospitalization on pediatric (non-intensive care) wards and again three months after discharge. Eligible parents had a child expected to be hospitalized for three or more nights. Standardized questionnaires were used to assess parent distress during the child's hospitalization, parent coping strategies and resources, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress after the hospitalization. Correlations and multiple regressions were used to determine whether parent distress during hospitalization and coping strategies and resources predicted post-traumatic stress symptoms three months after the child's discharge, while controlling for relevant covariates.

Results: Three months after the child's hospital discharge, 32.7% of parents (n=35) reported some degree of post-traumatic stress symptoms, and 21.5% (n=23) had elevated (≥34) scores consistent with a probable diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. In the multivariable model, parent anxiety and uncertainty during hospitalization and use of negative coping strategies, such as denial, venting and self-blame, were associated with higher post-traumatic stress symptoms scores at three months post-discharge, even after controlling for the child's health status. Parental anxiety and depression during hospitalization moderated the relationship between negative coping strategies and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Conclusions: More than one quarter of parents of children hospitalized on pediatric (non-intensive care) wards experienced significant post-traumatic stress symptoms after their child's discharge. Parents' hospital-related anxiety, uncertainty and use of negative coping strategies are potentially modifiable factors that most strongly influenced post-traumatic stress symptoms. Further research is urgently needed to test the effectiveness of different methods to provide psychological, emotional and instrumental support for parents, focusing on increasing parent coping resources and reducing distress during hospitalization.

Keywords: Anxiety; Child hospitalization; Coping; Depression; Parents; Post-traumatic stress symptoms; Uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • United Kingdom