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Child Care Health Dev. 2011 Sep;37(5):719-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01171.x. Epub 2010 Dec 9.

The experience of hospital-related fears of 4- to 6-year-old children.

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Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.



There is little information available on a 4- to 6-year-old child's subjective experience of hospital-related fears, even though the data collected from parents and hospital staff indicate that hospitalization is an anxiety-producing experience for young children.


A qualitative method was chosen using a purposive sample of 90 children. The data were gathered via semi-structured interview from 2004 to 2006. The data were analysed using the structure of Colaizzi's Method of Phenomenological Analysis.


The essential fears were fears related to nursing interventions and pain, to the separation from parents and being left alone, to the lack of information, and to instruments and equipment. Children expressed their fears verbally or through their actions. The meaning of hospital-related fear formed four main clusters: insecurity, injury, helplessness, and rejection.


For young children, an experience of hospital-related might be so traumatic that it influences the well-being of the child. The fear may damage the sense of security felt by the children, and weaken the child's willingness to trust health-care professionals. The children often expressed their fear in a contradictory manner or denied it. Children need the help of adults to express their hospital-related fears, including the objects of these fears.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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