Traumatic stress, depression, and recovery: Child and parent responses after emergency medical care for unintentional injury

Nancy Kassam-Adams, Anne Bakker, Meghan L. Marsac, Joel A. Fein, Flaura Koplin Winston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess psychological symptoms in injured children (aged 8-17 years) and their parents after emergency department (ED) care to examine the relationship between posttraumatic stress and depression symptoms, co-occurrence of symptoms within families, and the relationship of these symptoms to parent-reported overall recovery. Methods: Children and parents (n = 263 child-parent dyads) were enrolled during ED treatment for unintentional injury. Approximately 5 months later, children and parents (n = 178 dyads) completed standardized measures of posttraumatic stress and depression symptoms and parents reported on child overall recovery. Results: Follow-up assessments found significant posttraumatic stress symptoms in 15% of children and 5% of parents, significant depression symptoms in 13% of children and 16% of parents, and problematic overall recovery in 17% of children. For both children and parents, posttraumatic stress and depression symptom severity were strongly associated. Child and parent symptoms were only modestly associated with each other, and there were few families in which both child and parent had significant posttraumatic stress or depression. Parent symptoms, but not child symptoms, were inversely associated with children's overall recovery. Conclusions: For about 1 in 6 children and parents, unintentional injury treated in the ED can be associated with negative psychological sequelae and suboptimal recovery. Within families, child and parent responses may differ; their relative association with overall recovery deserves additional research. To promote emotional recovery, ED clinicians should be aware of the potential psychological impact of unintentional injury, provide timely evidence-based anticipatory guidance, and communicate these concerns to primary care clinicians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)737-742
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Emergency Care
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Depression
  • Injury
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Psychosocial aspects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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