Parental anxiety and minor illness

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1994 Feb;15(1):14-9. doi: 10.1097/00004703-199402000-00003.


Anxious parents can present a challenge to pediatricians. This study examines the relationship of the anxiety of parents seeking pediatric care for minor conditions to parental perceptions of the child's present condition, worries about the child not related to the present condition, and other personal worries. Assessments of 150 parents were made regarding parental anxiety, perceptions, and worries before and after a pediatric visit. A high-anxiety group (HAG) and low-anxiety group (LAG) were derived from the 25% most and 25% least-anxious parents. A 2 x 2 repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed that both before and after the pediatric visit, parents in the HAG reported significantly poorer understanding of the child's condition and reported more worry about the reason for the visit, the child's behavior, finances, school or day care, relationships, employment, and future and past events than parents in the LAG (p < .003). The results suggest that factors unrelated to the child influence the anxiety of highly anxious parents of a child with a minor ailment. Actions that focus solely on the child and the child's condition could have a limited impact on anxiety. When faced with an anxious parent of a child with a minor condition, it appears sensible not only to be aware of perceptions and worries related to the child, but also other personal life concerns for that parent, the parent's general tendency to worry or become anxious, and how that parent is processing information.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Sick Role*