Aim. The aim of this study was to determine whether the trait anxiety scores and age of children could predict their state anxiety scores under stressful and relaxing situations.
Background. Surgery can cause considerable stress and anxiety that can have a profound effect on children. It is crucial for nurses to differentiate preoperative anxiety levels in children and to identify those children who are most likely to exhibit high levels of anxiety when undergoing surgery before any intervention can be appropriately planned, provided and evaluated.
Methods. A test-retest within subjects design was used. Five hundred and nineteen primary school-age children were invited to participate in the study. Participants were asked to respond to the Chinese version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children under stressful (pre-academic examination) and relaxing (post-academic examination) situations.
Result. Multiple regression analysis showed that the trait anxiety of children was a strong predictor of their state anxiety in a stressful situation but not in a relaxed one. Compared to trait anxiety, age was found to be a weak predictor of the state anxiety of children in either situation.
Conclusion. This study confirmed that trait anxiety of children could be predicted from their state anxiety under a stressful situation.
Relevance to clinical practice. The trait anxiety scale could be a useful screening tool for nurses to identify those children who are most likely to exhibit high levels of anxiety when undergoing surgery. Understanding the trait anxiety of children in advance could help nurses implement appropriate preoperative psychological intervention that can meet the individual needs of the child and thus promote better recovery.