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