Social support, coping, and preoperative emotional adaptation among school-age children anticipating elective tonsillectomy

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Rebecca New


Families & family life, Personal relationships, Sociology, Nursing, Mental health, Emotions, Children & youth, Throat

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society


This study examined the emotional impact of anticipated hospitalization among 8-12 year old children scheduled for an elective tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. Specifically, the study explored the ways that social support and information seeking coping behavior impact on preoperative anxiety. A secondary goal was to investigate the nature of school-age children's social support networks.

Forty-three, 8-12 year old (mean age: 9.77 years) children comprised the study sample. Phone interviews were obtained one to two days prior to the scheduled surgery. Demographic data was first obtained from the parent. The sequence of the child interviews began by first administering the Children's Social Support Interview (developed by investigator), followed by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, State Subscale (Spielberger, 1970), and finally the Preoperative Mode of Coping Interview (LaMontagne, 1984b).

The main finding of this study was that children using information seeking coping strategies were successful (as measured by low anxiety levels) in managing the stress of anticipated hospitalization. Children using information limiting coping behaviors also appeared successful in managing their stress. The children who experienced the highest levels of anxiety were those who used information seeking strategies for some aspects of the anticipated hospitalization experience, but appeared to be avoidant regarding other aspects of the experience.

The children experiencing the greatest anxiety also appeared to be experiencing the greatest amount of ambiguity, and were unwilling or unable for some reason to obtain the information needed to be reassured. It was suggested that a "lack of fit" between preferred coping style and actual coping behaviors utilized might be influencing the degree of anxiety experienced by these children. This suggestion indicates that children unable to obtain information need the assistance of a sensitive health care professional who can help them acquire the right amount of information needed to effectively cope.

In this study, social support was not significantly related to either coping behavior or preoperative anxiety. Nevertheless, the tool provided a useful means of obtaining descriptive data related to children's social support networks.


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