Peterson, Ross, Tucker (2002), Hospital Emergency Rooms and Children’s Health Care


Objective: Because children’s attitudes toward health care may have long-lasting effects on health care behavior, attitudes of children requiring hospital ER treatment for trauma injuries were assessed five years afterwards to evaluate the long-term effect of treatment distress. For comparison, health care attitudes of a large random sample of children were assessed.

Methods: Children (N = 139; 7-19 years old) recruited from the ER completed a health care attitude questionnaire. Comparable schoolchildren (N = 1300) completed the same questionnaire, with the addition of a few questions asking about hospital contact. The ER-recruited group were part of a 5 year follow-up study and at the time of initial recruitment, their parents had rated their children’s degree of distress at both the time of injury and of ER treatment on a 6 point scale.

Results: For the ER-recruited sample, the degree of distress during ER treatment did not seem to have long-term effects on children’s attitudes. For the Random Sample, contact with the ER, especially due to a trauma injury, was related to children liking the ER more.

Conclusions: Although other research has shown that aversive medical experiences may negatively affect children’s attitudes, these findings suggest that the nature of the medical contact is important in how children interpret medically-induced pain, which is related to their attitudes.