• coping;
  • fear;
  • hospital;
  • nursing;
  • pre-school-aged children;
  • qualitative research

salmela m., salanterä s. & aronen e.t. (2010) Coping with hospital-related fears: experiences of pre-school-aged children. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(6), 1222–1231.


Title. Coping with hospital-related fears: experiences of pre-school-aged children.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study of how 4- to 6-year-old children cope with their fears associated with hospitalization and how they explain their experiences.

Background.  Pre-school-aged children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress and fear during hospitalization. Children cope with their fears through problem-oriented, emotion-oriented, and function-oriented coping strategies. Even pre-school-aged children can express their emotions and expectations quite well orally. However, little is known about the coping strategies of 4- to 6-year-old children related to hospital fears and the meaning of coping for children.

Method.  A qualitative method was chosen using a purposive sample of 89 children. The data were gathered using semi-structured interviews from 2004 to 2006. The data were analysed using Colaizzi’s method for phenomenological analysis.

Findings.  The children’s experiences of coping with hospital fears consisted of ten main clusters: pleasure, positive images, security, confidence, care, understanding the meaning of the situation, participating, asking for help, readjustment and protecting oneself. The coping strategies during hospitalization described by the children were familiar to them and part of their everyday lives.

Conclusion.  It is important to observe and support the child’s individual coping strategies. Pre-school-aged children need information and guidance to orientate themselves in unknown situations and to participate in decisions concerning their everyday life. Most of all, they need opportunities to play and experience pleasure. Children can also be taught coping strategies that give them an active, positive role.