Egberts, Engelhard, de Jong, Hofland, Geenen, Van Loey (2019) Parents' memories and appraisals after paediatric burn injury: a qualitative study European journal of psychotraumatology 10(1) 1615346


Background: It is well established that a paediatric burn injury can lead to parental post-traumatic stress symptoms. The content of parents' memories and appraisals may reveal the traumatic experiences that need attention. Objective: To inform clinical practice, the aim of this study was to qualitatively examine parents' (intrusive) memories and appraisals, and associated emotions, concerning the injury, the hospitalisation, and its consequences. Method: Approximately three to six months after the burn event, semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents of 18 children (0-16 years old) that had been hospitalised for a burn injury. Thematic analysis was carried out to obtain themes. Results: A central element in parents' memories and appraisals was a sense of external or internal threat. Intrusive memories were predominantly related to the accident and first aid (i.e. threat of the injury), whereas parents' memories about the child's suffering were emotional but not experienced as intrusive. Later appraisals of the burn injury and its consequences included negative appraisals of the child's increased vulnerability, responsibility of self or other, the child's prolonged suffering and (risk of) permanent change, as well as appraisals of positive outcome and recovery. Emotions commonly reported in the context of memories and appraisals were fear, sadness, guilt, and relief. Conclusions: This study offers insight into the traumatic nature of paediatric burn injury from the parent's perspective and provides directions for the delivery of trauma-informed (after)care.