Parental Variables

Parental variables have been shown to have a significant impact on coping with procedures. Although many children appreciate having their parents with them during a medical procedure, and parents often help to coach children in the use of coping skills (Cohen et al. 1997), some studies have indicated that parental behavior, specifically anxiety and criticism, is associated with increased rates of child distress. Frank et al. (1995) found that parental behavior in the treatment room accounted for 53% of the variance in child distress behavior. Because youngsters get cues about how to think and behave from their parents, it is likely that parents who are visibly anxious may inadvertently cause their children to become more distressed. This observation suggests that when a parent is overtly anxious, his or her presence during a procedure may do more harm than good. In a study examining parental criticism and praise during procedures, Gelfand and Dahlquist (2003) found that criticism was associated with child distress. Taken together, the characteristics and behaviors of parents must be carefully considered prior to encouraging their presence during medical procedures.

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