Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiThomaso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Susan Mindel, PhD, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Gosch, PhD

Third Advisor

Chiara Baxt, PhD


The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of traumatic stress responses in parents of children treated in a pediatric intensive care unit, specifically parental beliefs about their child’s illness and their own coping self-efficacy as related to the severity of parental acute and posttraumatic stress. Archival data from a study conducted August 2004 through July 2005 in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PICU were used. Two hundred and forty-five parents were assessed at 48 hours after admission, and 180 parents were assessed 3 months postdischarge. At Time 1, parents completed a screening measure assessing psychosocial factors and an acute stress disorder (ASD) questionnaire. At Time 2, parents completed a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) questionnaire. Descriptive analyses examined rates of ASD and PTSD. Chisquare analyses examined gender differences in these rates. Correlations and hierarchical multiple regression analyses examined the relationships between parental risk factors and ASD and PTSD severity. Twenty-seven percent of parents developed ASD and 37% met subsyndromal criteria, with mothers endorsing higher rates of ASD. Four percent of parents developed PTSD and 14% met subsyndromal criteria, with no gender differences in these rates. Numerous psychosocial risk factors correlated with ASD symptom severity in all parents, but with PTSD symptom severity only in mothers. Maladaptive illness beliefs and low coping selfefficacy explained a significant amount of variance in ASD and PTSD symptom severity. While two specific beliefs were highly correlated with ASD and PTSD symptom severity in all parents, differences were found in the type of beliefs correlated with maternal and paternal ASD and PTSD symptom severity. Assessments and interventions should be targeted to appropriately support traumatic stress responses in PICU mothers and fathers of children in PICUs.