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Black, White, and Hispanic Children’s Health and Function 2-13 Months After Sibling Intensive Care Unit Death

Journal title
The Journal of pediatrics
Publication year
Youngblut, J. M.; Brooten, D.; Del-Moral, T.; Cantwell, G. P.; Totapally, B.; Yoo, C.

OBJECTIVE: To describe children’s anxiety, depression, behaviors, and school performance at 2-13 months after sibling neonatal/pediatric intensive care unit (NICU/PICU) or emergency department (ED) death and compare these outcomes by child age, sex, race/ethnicity, whether the child saw their sibling in the NICU/PICU/ED, and attended the sibling’s funeral. STUDY DESIGN: Children in 71 families were recruited for this longitudinal study from 4 children’s hospitals and 14 other Florida hospitals. Children rated anxiety (Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale) and depression (Children’s Depression Inventory); parents rated child behaviors (Child Behavior Checklist) and reported school performance (detentions, suspensions, requested parent-teacher meetings) at 2, 4, 6, and 13 months post-sibling death. Analyses included repeated measures-ANOVA, t-tests, and 1-way ANOVA. RESULTS: In total, 132 children and 96 parents participated. More children were female (58%), black (50%), and school-age (72%). Of the children, 43% had elevated anxiety and 6% had elevated depression over 13 months post-sibling death. Child-rated anxiety was higher for girls and black vs white children. Child-rated anxiety and depression were lower if they saw their sibling in the NICU/PICU/ED before and/or after the death, and/or attended the funeral. Teens were more withdrawn than school-age children at all time points. Children who did not see their deceased sibling in the NICU/PICU/ED after death had more requests for parent-teacher conferences. CONCLUSIONS: Children’s anxiety was more common than depression, especially in girls and black children. Children who saw their siblings in the NICU/PICU/ED before/after death and/or attended funeral services had lower anxiety and depression over the first 13 months after sibling death.

Research abstracts