OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) in a selected population of paediatric patients and their parents.
METHODOLOGY: Twenty-three high-risk patients (serious accidents, newly diagnosed cancer) and 11 low-risk patients (simple planned surgery) and their parents were consecutively selected and assessed 6-8 weeks after the event with a DSM-IV based diagnostic interview and the PTSD Symptom Scale.
RESULTS: There is a high prevalence of PTSD in children and parents of the high-risk group. In the low-risk group such disorders are almost nonexistent. Parents in both groups report more PTSD symptoms than their children. Sex and age of the child and duration of hospitalisation have no significant influence on the development of PTSD.
CONCLUSIONS: The high prevalence of PTSD in high-risk paediatric patients and their parents offers support for the applicability of a post-traumatic stress model for understanding the psychological impact of accidents, severe illnesses and their medical treatment.