Parents’ posttraumatic stress after burns in their school-aged child: A prospective study
This prospective study examined the course and potential predictors of parents’ posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) after burn injury in their child (Age 8 to 18 years).
One hundred eleven mothers and 91 fathers, representing 118 children, participated in the study. Within the first month after the burn event and subsequently at 3, 12, and 18 months postburn, both parents completed the Impact of Event Scale (IES). Parental emotions related to the burn event and appraisal of threat to the child’s life were assessed, which were investigated in a multilevel regression model.
Within the first month postburn, 48% of the mothers and 26% of the fathers reported clinically significant PTSS (IES ≥26), which decreased to, respectively, 19% and 4% 18 months postburn. Symptoms of intrusion were mainly individually experienced, whereas parents within a couple were more similar in terms of their avoidance symptoms. The perceived life threat and feelings of guilt and anger linked to the burn event were significantly related to parental PTSS, especially in mothers.
The results indicate that a burn event to a child has a severe (acute) psychological impact on parents and that clinical levels of PTSS may persist in a subgroup of parents. The findings underline the need to incorporate parent support in burn care, especially for mothers with a strong emotional response during the first months after the burn event.