When children are ill enough to require admission to paediatric intensive care, parents may become distressed about their child's medical condition and this distress may be compounded by the unfamiliar nature of the highly technological environment. Parents of children who are sick enough to warrant intubation are particularly likely to be exposed to a frightening array of technological equipment. Seventy-one parents of intubated and non-intubated children completed the Parental Stressor Scale: Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PSS:PICU). Overall the findings suggest that parents were most distressed (a) by the painful procedures to which their children were subjected, (b) by the sights and sounds of the intensive care unit and (c) by their children's reactions to intensive care. The behaviour of staff towards parents and the way that staff communicated with them caused the least distress. When the levels of stress reported by parents of intubated children were compared with those reported by parents of non-intubated children, different patterns of stress were found. Painful procedures were a source of greater stress to parents of intubated children whereas the behaviour of staff and the children's reactions to the intensive care experience caused greater stress to the parents of the non-intubated children. In general the findings suggest that the needs of parents of non-intubated children are being overlooked, with staff focusing more of their attention on the parents of intubated children.