Children’s Immediate Postoperative Distress and Mothers’ and Fathers’ Touch Behaviors

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Objective This study examined mothers’ and fathers’ use of child-directed touch in the postanesthesia care unit. Methods In all, 142 mothers and 112 fathers of 143 children aged 2–11 years undergoing outpatient surgery participated. Parent touch (instrumental, empathic) and child distress were coded. Mothers’ and fathers’ rates of touch were compared, and interrelations between touch and child distress were examined (overall and sequentially). Results The proportion of mothers and fathers who used touch did not differ, but mothers’ rates of touch were higher than fathers’. Parental instrumental touch and mothers embracing touch were positively correlated with children’s distress. Mothers were more likely to use embracing touch in response to children’s distress than at any other time. Conclusions Results point to potential differences in mothers’ and fathers’ roles in the postoperative setting, and potentially different functions of touch. Results suggest that mothers may provide embracing touch to soothe or prevent children’s distress.

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