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Does age at the time of elective cardiac surgery or catheter intervention in children influence the longitudinal development of psychological distress and styles of coping of parents?

Elisabeth M Utens, Herma J Versluis-Den Bieman, Maarten Witsenburg, Ad J J C Bogers, John Hess, Frank C Verhulst
Cardiology in the Young 2002, 12 (6): 524-30
12645496

AIMS: To assess the influence of age at a cardiac procedure of children, who underwent elective cardiac surgery or interventional cardiac catheterisation for treatment of congenital cardiac defects between 3 months and 7 years of age, on the longitudinal development of psychological distress and styles of coping of their parents.

METHODS: We used the General Health Questionnaire to measure psychological distress, and the Utrecht Coping List to measure styles of coping. Parents completed questionnaires on average respectively 5 weeks prior to, and 18.7 months after, cardiac surgery or catheter intervention for their child.

RESULTS: Apart from one exception, no significant influence was found of the age at which children underwent elective cardiac surgery or catheter intervention on the pre- to postprocedural course of psychological distress and the styles of coping of their parents. Across time, parents of children undergoing surgery reported, on average, significantly higher levels of psychological distress than parents of children who underwent catheter intervention. After the procedure, parents of children who underwent either procedure reported significantly lower levels of psychological distress, and showed a weaker tendency to use several styles of coping, than did their reference groups.

CONCLUSION: Age of the children at the time of elective cardiac surgery or catheter intervention did not influence the course of psychological distress of their parents, nor the styles of coping used by the parents. Future research should investigate in what way the age at which these cardiac procedures are performed influences the emotional and cognitive development of the children.

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