Parental Adjustment Following Paediatric Burn Injury: The Role of Guilt, Shame and Self-Compassion

Laura Hawkins, Luna C.M. Centifanti, Natalie Holman, Peter Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine the association between the following factors: guilt, shame, self-compassion, and parents’ psychological adjustment to their child’s burn injury.

Methods: Ninety-one parents and primary caregivers (63 mothers, 25 fathers, 3 other) of 71 children were recruited on the ward or at outpatient clinics during the first eight weeks following their child’s burn injury. In 20 cases both parents participated, while for 51 children only one parent participated. Participants completed questionnaires which assessed adjustment (symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome [PTSS]) as well as guilt, shame and self-compassion.

Results: Multilevel analysis indicated that feelings of guilt and shame were associated with poorer adjustment in parents, while parents who rated high in self-compassion reported fewer symptoms of depression and PTSS. Guilt and shame showed a differing pattern of effects with shame explaining more variance for anxiety and depression. Length of hospitalisation predicted PTSS however the remaining injury factors (size of burn, requiring a skin graft) were unrelated to parental adjustment.

Conclusions: Health care professionals should pay close attention to families’ subjective injury experiences. Screening for psychological distress should be offered to all families regardless of the size and severity of the burn injury.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pediatric Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Sept 2018


  • Burn Injury
  • children
  • parents
  • guilt
  • shame
  • self-compassion


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