The experiences and emotional responses of parents with hospitalised children: an examination of possible contributory factors

O'Dwyer, June (2000). The experiences and emotional responses of parents with hospitalised children: an examination of possible contributory factors. PhD thesis The Open University.



Background and Aims: Research has highlighted some of the parental stressors experienced in hospitals by parents of children that required repeated admissions. Little had been written about parents of essentially healthy children with a first admission for an acute condition/needing surgery. A small qualitative study investigating the hospitalisation experiences of this group of parents was completed by the author earlier. The aim of the present study was to find out if the factors identified previously as being the most stressful, do in fact contribute to the distress experienced by parents in hospital.

Design and Participants: This cross-sectional study used comparative and correlational analyses. The sample included 75 parents of children in hospital.

Measures: Variables were measured using a range of constructed questionnaires.

Results: The results showed that parents experienced a higher level of psychological distress while at the hospital, compared to a couple of weeks prior to their child’s admission. Parents’ perceived seriousness of their child’s condition, was correlated with higher level of anxiety while at the hospital. Other results indicated that parents were satisfied with hospital procedures, staff communication and parental role. However, parents of children with first admissions were less satisfied with some aspects of communication and more confused about parental role compared to parents of children with repeated admissions. Findings highlighted the levels/sources of support parents received. It was noted that there was a significant relationship between depression and support from family and a significant trend was also found for depression and support from other parents on the ward.

Implication: The discussion considers explanations for the findings, which are discussed in relation to previous literature. Clinical implications for undertaking work with health care professionals and working with parents on paediatric wards are examined. The limitations of this study are explored and further research is suggested.

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