236119 Mental health impact of disease containment on families: Lessons learned and strategies for promoting resiliency

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ginny Sprang, PhD , Center for the Study of Violence Against Children, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
James J. Clark, PhD , College of Social Work; Center for Study of Violence against Chilren, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Phyllis Leigh, MSW, CSW , Center for the Study of Violence Against Children, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Miriam S. Silman, MSW , Center for the Study of Violence Against Children, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background: During a pandemic, quarantine or isolation may be used to control the spread of the virus. A child's capacity to cope is embedded in a complex array of interdependent transactions with familial and social systems that serve many regulatory and protective roles. Empirical studies of family functioning in times of crisis have documented how disruptions in family rituals, norms, and structure can destabilize a family, and lead to poor mental health outcomes in children (Fiese & Spagnola, 2007). Methods: This study used a mixed-method design to examine the impact of quarantine and isolation on the mental health of 755 parents and children following pandemic events in the U.S. and Mexico, and Canada. Results: Isolated/quarantined parents reported significantly elevated symptoms of distress and were three times more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than parents without disease containment experiences. Parents also reported that the most common distress symptoms exhibited by their children as a result of quarantine or isolation included fear and re-experiencing the event. Additionally, nearly a third of the children who experienced isolation or quarantine demonstrated significant enough symptoms to meet threshold levels of PTSD. Conclusions: The rates of PTSD in this study indicate that the disease containment process created a condition that was experienced as traumatic by these respondents. The qualitative data gleaned from subsequent focus groups and interviews sheds light on the reasons for this distress, and highlights opportunities to attenuate adverse outcomes through family-focused pandemic preparedness and response strategies.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the mental health impacts of isolation and quarantine on parents and children. 2. Identify strategies to decrease adverse mental health outcomes in parents and children through specific pandemic planning and response policies and practices.

Keywords: Child/Adolescent Mental Health, Practice Guidelines

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Co-PI on the federally funded project from which this research is derived. I serve as Associate Dean for Research and hold the endowed post of Constance Wilson Professor of Mental Health at the University of Kentucky. I have published and presented widely in the area of child trauma.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.