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To describe and compare the support provided by nursing staff to families during their child's illness from the viewpoint of families and nurses.A survey method was used. Data were collected by questionnaires planned for families and staff separately. The study population consisted of families who visited paediatric outpatient clinics, families with hospitalized children (n = 344) and the paediatric nursing staff (n = 60).Almost half of the families had received adequate emotional and informational support from the nursing staff for their physical and psychological reactions. One-fifth of the families reported that they had not been supported at all during the child's hospitalization. According to families and nurses, the support was provided in the forms of discussion, listening and giving time.Families' and nurses' suggestions for development of support were related to the time resources of the staff, to the flow of information, to more client-centred attitudes, to being appreciated and listened to and to home care guidance. However, the pervasiveness of this problem in the international literature suggests that deeper consideration of possible underlying reasons for this phenomenon is called for.