Social robots to support children's well-being under medical treatment: A systematic state-of-the-art review

J Child Health Care. 2019 Dec;23(4):596-612. doi: 10.1177/1367493518803031. Epub 2018 Nov 3.


Hospitalization is a stressful experience for children. Socially assistive robots (SARs), designed to interact with humans, might be a means to mitigate a child's stress and support its well-being. A systematic state-of-the-art review was performed to inventorize the use of SARs in hospital to support children's well-being and what the effects are. We searched five databases (Cinahl, Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, IEEE), combining terms for 'distress', 'relaxation' and 'well-being' with terms for social robot and child, and did an additional hand search. Ten publications (on eight studies) out of 563 unique titles were considered relevant. Six different robots were used (one humanoid, five pet-like) for distraction during medical procedure, emotional support for dealing with a disease or support of well-being during hospital stay. Positive effects on the children were noted, such as experiencing distraction and engagement, and less stress or pain, more relaxation, smiling and openness or better communication. On a psychiatric ward some youngsters felt unsafe with the robot. The outcomes suggest that SARs may have a potentially positive influence on a child's well-being. Further research is needed to determine the effect of using SARs and how to integrate the use in the working routines of health personnel.

Keywords: Child health; child’s well-being; hospitalization; social robots; socially assistive robot.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Welfare / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Emotions
  • Family
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Robotics / trends*