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J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2006 Apr;27(2):134-40.

Bowlby and Robertson revisited: the impact of isolation on hospitalized children during SARS.

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  • 1Department of Child Life, The Hospital for Sick Children, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Psychosocial issues related to pediatric isolation remain relevant to both clinical practice and research. The early theories of Bowlby and Robertson are central to this discussion for it was predominantly their work that elicited several policy changes aimed at improving psychosocial care in pediatric settings. Recognizing the significant effects of isolating hospitalized children is just as relevant today where serious infectious diseases can lead to separation of family members. An ethnographic, qualitative study examined the experiences and perspectives of children hospitalized because of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), their parents, and pediatric health care providers. The sample included 23 participants: five children, 10 parents, and eight health care providers. Data analyses illuminated a range of perceived experiences for this triadic sample. Themes related to the effects of social isolation on children were predominant. They included emotional upheaval, changes in parental and professional roles, and familial experiences following hospital discharge. Finally, the paper draws on the findings of the present study and other recent work in offering recommendations for effective clinical approaches in the event of future outbreaks.

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