Effects of mother reassurance versus distraction on children's reactions to injections

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Donald K. Routh - Committee Chair


The present study manipulated experimentally mothers' vocal behavior during a routine intramuscular injection in order to help clarify the role of nonprocedural talk (distraction) and parental reassurance on children's reaction to the injection. Forty-two child-mother dyads were recruited from a general pediatric primary care clinic and were randomly assigned to a parental reassurance, parental nonprocedural talk (distraction) or minimal-treatment control group. In comparing the effects of distraction and reassurance and a control condition, a clear pattern of the effects of the mother's behavior on child distress emerges. Children in the maternal distraction condition exhibited significantly less distress during the immunization injection than those in the reassurance and control conditions. Specifically, children in the maternal distraction group exhibited less crying than children in the other two groups. The children in the reassurance and control groups did not differ from each other in terms of behavioral distress. The present findings serve further to bolster the purported efficacy of maternal distraction as a tool to ameliorate child distress during invasive medical procedures. While maternal distraction was found to ameliorate child distress, the present finding regarding maternal reassurance suggests that it is not an effective intervention for immunization related distress. Additional insight into children's procedural related distress may be gained by further delineating the effect of various environmental social factors as well as the interaction of these factors with other child, parent, medical personnel and societal characteristics.


Psychology, Social; Psychology, Developmental; Psychology, Clinical

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