Longitudinal Trajectories of Caregiver Distress and Family Functioning After Community-Acquired Pediatric Septic Shock

Lexa K. Murphy, Tonya M. Palermo, Kathleen L. Meert, Ron Reeder, J. Michael Dean, Russell Banks, Robert A. Berg, Joseph A. Carcillo, Ranjit Chima, Julie McGalliard, Wren Haaland, Richard Holubkov, Peter M. Mourani, Murray M. Pollack, Anil Sapru, Samuel Sorenson, James W. Varni, Jerry Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: To identify trajectories and correlates of caregiver distress and family functioning in families of children who survived community-acquired septic shock. We hypothesized that: 1) a substantial subset of families would demonstrate trajectories of persistent elevated caregiver distress and impaired family functioning 12 months after hospitalization and 2) sociodemographic and clinical risk factors would be associated with trajectories of persistent distress and family dysfunction. Design: Prospective cohort. Setting: Fourteen PICUs in the United States. Patients: Caregivers of 260 children who survived community-acquired septic shock. Interventions: None. Measurements and Main Results: Caregivers completed ratings of distress on the Brief Symptom Inventory and of family functioning on the Family Assessment Device at baseline, 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after hospitalization. Results from group-based trajectory modeling indicated that 67% of the current sample was characterized by persistent low caregiver distress, 26% by persistent moderate to high distress that remained stable across 12 months (high-risk caregiver distress group), and 8% by initial high distress followed by gradual recovery. Forty percent of the sample was characterized by stable high family functioning, 15% by persistent high dysfunction across 12 months (high-risk family functioning group), 12% by gradually improving functioning, and 32% by deteriorating function over time. Independently of age, child race was associated with membership in the high-risk caregiver distress group (non-white/Hispanic; effect size, -0.12; p = 0.010). There were no significant sociodemographic or clinical correlates of the high-risk family functioning group in multivariable analyses. Conclusions: Although the majority of families whose children survived community-acquired septic shock were characterized by resilience, a subgroup demonstrated trajectories of persistently elevated distress and family dysfunction during the 12 months after hospitalization. Results suggest a need for family-based psychosocial screening after pediatric septic shock to identify and support at-risk families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-796
Number of pages10
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • caregiver
  • critical care
  • distress
  • family functioning
  • pediatrics
  • sepsis


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