PTSD is Common in Parents of Children with Childhood Stroke

PTSD parent
PTSD parent
Both parents and children exhibited criteria of PTSD and significant levels of anxiety.

NASHVILLE — More than 50% of parents with children who experienced stroke exhibited one of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) criteria and nearly 25% met all criteria for PTSD, findings similar to those observed in parents of other critically ill children.

Laura Lehman, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, presented the results at the International Stroke Conference 2015. In an interview with Neurology Advisor, Lehman said that the catalyst for the study was an observation she had in her clinical practice.

“I noticed that parents and children following the stroke were showing signs of PTSD and anxiety,” she said. “They were anxious that the stroke would happen again and continued to relive the events surrounding the stroke.”

To better understand this possible association, Lehman and colleagues examined the emotional outcomes of 33 parents (69.7% mothers) of children (age range, 0-18 years) and 10 children (age range, 7-18 years) after a recent stroke in the child occurring in 2013 or 2014.

Researchers screened parents for PTSD using the PTSD checklist and surveyed them on their child’s stroke outcome with the Recurrence and Recovery Questionnaire (RRQ). The children were screened with the University of California Los Angeles PTSD Reaction Index and had their emotional outcome determined with the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition.

Overall, 55% of parents met at least one of the PTSD criteria and 24% met all criteria. Compared with parents without PTSD, median RRQ scores were numerically higher in parents with PTSD (1.2 vs. 0.6), but this did not reach statistical significance.

Among children surveyed, 44% met at least one criterion for PTSD and 22% had clinically significant levels of anxiety.

Although these results are preliminary, Lehman said they demonstrate that it is common for parents to have PTSD and children to have anxiety following childhood stroke. “[This] could impede on compliance with interventions, such as the therapies they need to recover, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy leading to poorer functional outcomes in the child,” she said.

Lehman added that in her clinical practice, she has become more aware of the emotional reactions, both for parents and children, that occur following the traumatic event of a stroke. “I am looking for ways to help them cope, including counseling, and hope in the future to introduce further interventions to help both parents and children.”

For more coverage of the International Stroke Conference 2015, go here.


  1. Lehman L et al. Abstract T P363. Presented at: International Stroke Conference 2015; Feb. 11-13, 2015; Nashville, Tennessee.