Meta-analysis found high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and associated risk factors in parents following paediatric medical events

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Aim: This meta-analysis identified how prevalent parental post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was after their children's medical events and evaluated the risk factors that increased the likelihood of PTSD. 

Methods: The MEDLINE, PsycINFO and PTSDpubs databases were searched for papers published in English from 1980 to June 2018. The prevalence of parental PTSD was pooled across the studies and risk factors were extracted whether PTSD symptoms were correlated with other research variables or when the authors had conducted between group analyses of PTSD. We also explored the effects of the assessment method, parental gender and medical events and the risk of bias. 

Results: The 54 studies that were identified had a pooled PTSD prevalence rate of 30.3% (95% confidence interval 25.3%–35.5%). Childhood cancer cases yielded the highest rates of parental PTSD. A total of 33 potential risk factors were identified. The risk factors with medium to large effects were: comorbid parental psychological responses and functioning, acute stress responses, child behavioural functioning, uncertainty about the child's illness and negative coping strategies. The findings are discussed within the context of high heterogeneity. 

Conclusion: The prevalence of parental PTSD after paediatric medical events was relatively high, and 33 risk factors were identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3227-3236
Number of pages10
JournalActa Paediatrica
Issue number12
Early online date17 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • medical events
  • parents
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • prevalence
  • risk factors

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