Self-Perceptions of Young Adults Who Survived Severe Childhood Burn Injury

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Abstract

The transition of pediatric burn survivors into adulthood is accompanied by a reformulation of their self-concept. To anticipate the need for and guide development of appropriate psychosocial interventions, this study examines how young adults who were burned as children perceive themselves and how this perception might affect their self-esteem. Eighty-two young adult burn survivors (45 male, 37 female) were assessed using the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale, 2nd edition (TSCS2) to determine how the participants perceive themselves and their interaction with society. To gain insight into the possible effects of these self-concept scores, relationships were analyzed between self-concept, a behavioral assessment (Young Adult Self-Report [YASR]), and a psychiatric symptom assessment (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders [SCID I]). This group of burn survivors scored significantly lower in self-concepts, reflected in TSCS2 subscale scores of physical function, appearance, and sexuality, moral conduct, personal values, academics and work, and identity, than did the reference population. Pearson correlation coefficients showed that as moral, personal, family, and social aspects of self-concept decreased, clinical problems endorsed on the YASR subscales increased, including anxiety, somatic, attention, intrusive, and aggressive. Persons with lower self-concept scores on the TSCS2 personal, family, and social scales were more withdrawn on the YASR. Similarly, those with lower TSCS2 scores on the personal and family scales endorsed significantly more thought problems on the YASR. TSCS2 total self-concept, personal, and all of the supplementary scale scores were significantly lower for the group with an affective disorder. Those whose SCID I scores were consistent with a current anxiety disorder had significantly lower scores for the TSCS2 total self-concept and personal. Lower self-concept was associated with endorsement of SCID symptoms. In summary, the significantly lower self-concept scores on the TSCS2 physical scale are consistent with the physical disfigurement and handicaps common with major burn injuries, and a strong indication of this group’s perception of the first impression made when interacting with others. The survivors seem to feel worthwhile within the contexts of family and friends. Although the major limitation of this study using the TSCS2 is the lack of a matched reference population to compare the burn survivors, the TSCS2 does help in gaining insight into the self-esteem issues of the burn survivor population.

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