Nursing ETDs

Publication Date



Advances in medical science have increased the number of children surviving illnesses and injuries that would have otherwise been fatal. Parents who have a critically ill child in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) often experience extreme levels of stress and poor coping. The purpose of this exploratory study was to explore parental stress and coping in a diverse group of parents of a critically ill child. This exploratory study used a descriptive-comparative and correlational research design. The Resiliency Model of Family Stress, Adjustment, and Adaptation (McCubbin & McCubbin, 1993) was used as a theoretical framework for the study. A convenience sample consisted of 86 participants (84 parents, one aunt, and one foster parent) and of the participants, 48 were lone respondents and 38 were from 19 2-parent dyads. Data were collected in a large freestanding childrens hospital in the Southwest. Parental stress was measured by the Parental Stressor Scale:PICU (PSS:PICU; Carter & Miles, 1983). Parental coping was measured by the Coping Health Inventory for Parents (CHIP) (McCubbin, McCubbin et al., 1983). Results demonstrated that both mothers and fathers rated the PICU experience as stressful and rated parent roles and child behaviors/emotions as the most stressful aspects of having a critically ill child. There was no statistical difference between mothers and fathers in total stressor scores. Both mothers and fathers used three coping patterns of CHIP, listed from most helpful to least helpful: Coping Pattern I, II, and III. There was a statistically significant difference in the mean scores on Coping Pattern I and Coping Pattern II between mothers and fathers which indicated that mothers found the coping strategies more helpful than fathers. Regression results indicated that income and whether the hospitalization was planned accounted for 19% of the total stressor score. In terms of coping, gender, income, and child age accounted 41% of the variance in Coping Pattern I scores. Whereas, income, parent gender, and nursing acuity accounted for 40% of the variance in Coping Pattern II scores. Neither the parent demographic variables nor the child demographic or clinical variables significantly predicted Coping Pattern III scores.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

College of Nursing

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lobo, Marie

Second Committee Member

Mendelson, Cindy

Third Committee Member

Parshall, Mark

Fourth Committee Member

Brewer, Melanie


parental stress, parental coping, PICU, pediatric intensive care unit



Document Type