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To assess the level of psychological distress and styles of coping in both mothers and fathers of children who underwent invasive treatment for congenital cardiac disease at least 7 years and 6 months ago.
The General Health Questionnaire and the Utrecht Coping List were completed by parents of children with 4 different cardiac diagnoses.
Overall, in comparison with reference groups, parents of children treated for congenital heart disease showed lower levels of distress, manifested as lower levels of somatic symptoms, anxiety and sleeplessness and serious depression. Mothers of children with congenital heart disease reported significantly more somatic symptoms than fathers.
Further, compared to reference groups more favourable outcomes on coping were found; parents in our sample showed a weaker tendency to use styles of coping such as reassuring thoughts and less often expressed negative emotions (anger, annoyance). Mothers in our sample appeared to seek social support more often compared to fathers.
Overall, lower levels of psychological distress and few differences in styles of coping compared to reference groups were found in parents of children treated for congenital heart disease. We need to remain alert however, for individual parents at risk of adjusting poorly.
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