Article

The psychosocial themes of children with a congenital heart defect

Published in: Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health
Volume 29, issue 3, 2017, pages: 231–244
DOI: 10.2989/17280583.2017.1405815
Author(s): Ronél van der WattDepartment of Psychology, South Africa, Carina PheifferDepartment of Psychology, South Africa, Stephen BrownPediatric and Child Health, South Africa

Abstract

Children living with a congenital heart defect (CHD) carry the burden of a condition affecting their biological, psychological, and social functioning. Even though the physical heartbeats of these children might be inaudible and defective, their intra- and inter-personal ‘stories in sound’ need to be heard and understood. The aim of this research study was to explore these ‘stories in sound’ in children diagnosed with CHD. A qualitative, exploratory, descriptive study using thematic analysis was conducted. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six boys and three girls between the ages of eight and fourteen years, who were diagnosed with CHD. The developmental psychopathology model (DPM) served as a conceptual framework. Five main themes emerged and were related to (i) the participants’ understanding of their cardiac diagnoses; (ii) the participants’ perceptions regarding their post-operative cardiac statuses; (iii) the participants’ psychological experiences related to their cardiac statuses; (iv) the effects of living with CHD on their social functioning; and (v) a unique relationship to their chronic cardiac condition. Within each of these themes, thirteen subthemes were identified. The article concludes that an age-appropriate understanding of CHD and post-operative cardiac status is important, as children’s perceptions have implications for their psychosocial experiences and acceptance of living with CHD. These children need comprehensive support from health care professionals.

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