Psychosocial problems of children whose parents visit the emergency department due to intimate partner violence, substance abuse or a suicide attempt

E. M.M. Hoytema van Konijnenburg*, J. H. van der Lee, A. H. Teeuw, R. Lindeboom, S. N. Brilleslijper-Kater, T. Sieswerda-Hoogendoorn, J. B. van Goudoever, R. J.L. Lindauer, on behalf of the aftERcare-group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: High levels of maltreatment are found in children who are identified because their parents visit the emergency department due to partner violence, substance abuse or suicide attempt. However, it is unknown if these children experience psychosocial problems. This study aims to assess their levels of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, behavioural problems and health-related quality of life. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in six hospitals. All consecutive families of which a parent visited the emergency department due to partner violence, substance abuse or suicide attempt between 1 July 2012 and 1 March 2014 with children aged 1.5–17 years were approached for participation. Parents and children aged 8 years and older filled out questionnaires measuring post-traumatic stress [13-item version of Children's Revised Impact of Event Scale (CRIES-13)], anxiety, depression (Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale), behavioural problems [Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and Youth Self-Report (YSR)] and health-related quality of life (PedsQL). Scores of participants were compared with reference data obtained in children in similar age ranges from representative Dutch community samples (CRIES-13, Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale, PedsQL and CBCL) and to a normed cutoff score (CRIES-13). Results: Of 195 eligible families, 89 (46%) participated in the study. Participating children did not score different from community children, both on child-reported and parent-reported instruments. Standardized mean differences of total sum scores were 0 (CRIES-13 and CBCL 1.5–5), 0.1 (YSR), 0.2 (CBCL 6–18) and −0.3 (PedsQL) and not statistically different from community children. Thirty-five percent of the participating children scored above the cutoff score on the CRIES-13, indicating post-traumatic stress disorder, but this difference was not statistically significant from community children (mean difference 8%; 95% CI −4–22%). Conclusions: We found no differences in psychosocial problems between children whose parents visited the emergency department due to partner violence, substance abuse or suicide attempt and children from community samples. Because 35% of the children scored in the range of post-traumatic stress disorder, we advise healthcare providers to pay attention to post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-384
Number of pages16
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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