This paper is based on a critique of studies exploring the experiences and needs of parents whose children are admitted to paediatric intensive care units (PICU). The majority of studies have been conducted in North America and attempt to quantify parental feelings and experiences. Few qualitative studies have been published. Major theoretical concerns are developed in relation to the validity of quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection which currently serve to inform nursing practice. While methodological issues abound, consistency across studies supports the importance of certain features of parents’ experiences, such as being with their child and role conflict. None of the literature reviewed considered the specific needs of different ethnic and cultural groups, siblings, grandparents or the family as a unit. The views of fathers are also under-represented. Recommendations are made for future well-designed qualitative studies to be undertaken by experienced qualitative researchers from a holistic insider family perspective.