Thursday, June 5th, 2014
Children whose parents are seriously injured face an elevated risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even if they themselves were not injured, according to new research conducted in Seattle. The new study is reportedly the first to examine the effect of parents’ injuries on children in settings other than war zones. More from Reuters:
Researchers studied 175 pairs of parents and school-age children seen at a Seattle trauma center. They found that uninjured children whose parents were seriously hurt were twice as likely to experience PTSD symptoms months later as those whose parents were uninjured.
“If the parent is injured, the child is more likely to have more anxiety in five months,” psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Zatzick told Reuters Health. “We hope to incorporate psychological support services that allow us to anticipate the difficulties that families face in the wake of injury.”
Motor vehicle crashes were the primary cause of injury when both the parent and child were seriously hurt. Other injuries were caused by burns or falls, for instance.
About 20 percent of uninjured children whose parents were injured reported symptoms of PTSD five months later, compared to 10 percent of uninjured children whose parents were also unhurt, according to findings published in Pediatrics. The difference shrunk after a year.
Zatzick and his colleagues at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle also found that injured children tended to recover more slowly physically and emotionally if their parents were also injured than children whose parents were not seriously hurt.
Image: Woman in hospital bed, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Parents whose children face serious or life-threatening illnesses are likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including anxiety and depression. These symptoms may, in effect, extend the traumatic effect the illness has on the whole family because it affects how parents treat siblings, their spouses, and other relatives. More on a new study about post-traumatic stress in kids and adults after a child’s injury from The New York Times:
Researchers who study parental stress tend to reach for the oxygen-mask metaphor: if you don’t breathe yourself, you aren’t going to be able to take care of your child.
“Parents need to feel well enough that they can then be there for their child, their other children,” said Nancy Kassam-Adams, a psychologist who is the director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The hardest thing is self-care.”
Dr. Kassam-Adams is the lead author of a new review of post-traumatic stress in both children and parents after the children were injured, which concludes that about one in every six children, and a similar percentage of parents, experience significant, persistent symptoms. They may have intrusive and distressing memories and dreams, or continue to avoid people or places that evoke the circumstances of the injury, or struggle with mood problems, including depression. If untreated, this can damage the child’s emotional and physical recovery.
Research into the effects of parental stress developed as pediatric cancer treatment claimed more and more success stories, medical victories that gave children their lives back. Clinicians and social workers — and parents themselves — began asking questions about how to help families continue on with those triumphantly recovered childhoods.
It helped, in part, to tell parents that they’d been enlisted in a war, said Anne E. Kazak, a pediatric psychologist and co-director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery Science at Nemours Pediatric Health System in Wilmington, Del. Parents connected to this metaphor: “You’ve been part of the war on cancer, the battle fighting it,” she said.
Some of the strategies and insights gained from this body of research are already visible in most children’s hospitals: a place for parents to sleep, even in the intensive care unit; including parents in so-called family-centered rounds; a staff attuned to interpret a parent’s extreme behavior as a cry for help, rather than a source of irritation and extra work.
But what happens after children are out of the medical danger zone? Many parents continue to experience the physical symptoms of stress — the racing pulse, the dry mouth. They continue to flash back to the moment of the cancer diagnosis, the moment of the very premature birth, the moment of the accident.
“It’s my belief a parent who’s traumatized is always expecting the other shoe to drop, will always be scanning the horizon,” said Dr. Richard J. Shaw, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford.
Image: Mother holding infant’s hand, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
A study published this week in the journal Pediatrics has found high rates of sexual and physical abuse among children who have behaviors that deviate from gender norms, leading to increased risk of PTSD as adults.
CNN.com reports that the study did not track transgendered kids, who believe they were born in the wrong physical bodies, but rather kids who exhibit gender nonconforming behaviors like boys wearing nail polish or girls wearing boys’ clothing:
Gender nonconforming behavior occurs in one out of 10 children, according to the study. A vast majority of these kids do not need medical interventions, because the behavior tends to fade as they grow older.
In the study published Monday, nearly 9,000 respondents were asked to recall their childhood experiences before age 11, including favorite toys, games, roles they took while playing, media characters they imitated or admired, and feelings of femininity and masculinity. When they reached adulthood, the participants were surveyed again — this time about whether they experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and were screened for PTSD.
The results showed “very clear patterns,” said S. Bryn Austin, one of the study’s authors. “The young people who as children were most nonconforming were much more likely to report mistreatment or abuse, within the family, by people outside the family. They were targeted for abuse.”
There should be extra precautions taken to protect them, she said.
“We are concerned about the health and risk of abuse and harassment targeting children who behave in a way, or express their gender in a way that’s not typical,” said Austin, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard School of Public Health. “We know there’s a lot of bias about how girls and boys are supposed to behave.”
Image: Little girl playing with a truck, via Shutterstock.
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