Psychological scars for child burn survivors hurt more than physical wounds

May 12, 2020

PHOENIX (May 12, 2020) - Children and young adult burn survivors are more troubled by staring, bullying, and uncomfortable questions than the actual physical discomfort and memories of their accidents, according to research that was selected to be presented at the American Burn Association's Annual Meeting and published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research. While treatment is typically focused primarily on acute care for physical wounds, the surveys suggest that survivors are left with few tools to handle social anxieties and traumatizing memories.

"Over the years, we have made many advancements in treating the physical wounds of burn survivors, but more needs to be done to treat the social and emotional wounds that come from these injuries," said Ruth Rimmer, PhD, CLCP, volunteer and former director of psychosocial research for the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health in Phoenix. "Our research shows that the most difficult issue that children and young adult survivors deal with is the reaction they get from other people. Giving them the tools to handle these interactions is critical to their well-being."

The findings come from two studies that asked more than 200 young adult (17-25 years old) and child (10-16 years old) burn survivors to reflect on the key challenges they faced while recovering and growing up.

In the first study, 64 young adults were asked to respond to the statement: "The hardest thing about being burned is..." Their reactions identified seven primary themes common to burn survivors: In the second study, 147 child burn survivors and 81 young adult survivors were asked to rate the level of difficulty they experienced for each of those seven themes on a four-point scale. More than 70% of respondents said they were bothered by staring and bullying, with 72% identifying bullying as the most painful reaction, and 71% identifying staring. More than half of respondents reported issues with scars (65%), memories of being burned (52%) and pain and itching (50%). Girls were bothered significantly more than boys by their scars.

The top mean scores for child burn survivors on the four-point scale included: Remembering the Burn (61%) & Getting Unwanted Questions (61%). Some significant differences emerged between the two age groups. Child burn survivors were more likely than young adults to report being troubled by "Getting Unwanted Questions," (61% vs. 43%) while the young adults were significantly more likely than child burn survivors to report pain from "Being Bullied" (63% vs. 46%).

"While both groups of survivors have to cope with unwanted stares and comments, it's interesting that bullying seems to be less of a problem for survivors today than a few years ago," said Rimmer. "This suggests that there may be a shift in how child burn survivors are treated by their peers and that bullying programs in schools should be supported and perhaps expanded."

As a result of these findings, the researchers suggest that burn units should incorporate supportive strategies, such as psychological or social interventions such as burn camp to complement surgical and medical treatments. By providing survivors with constructive coping strategies, the researchers suggest that it will help to improve burn-injured youth's social interactions and overall quality of life.
-end-
The studies were funded by the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, the Arizona Burn Foundation, The Midwest Children's Burn Camp, The Mid-Atlantic Burn Camp.

About Valleywise Health

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Valleywise Health (formerly Maricopa Integrated Health System) has a proud tradition of being both the community safety net health care system, with a mission and commitment to serving the underserved, and being Arizona's only public teaching hospital. Valleywise Health consists of Valleywise Health Medical Center; Maryvale hospital, the only Level I Trauma Center in Maricopa County verified by the American College of Surgeons to care for both adults and children, as well as Arizona's only nationally verified Burn Center serving the entire Southwestern United States; the McDowell Healthcare Center, the largest provider of HIV primary care in Arizona; the Refugee Women's Health Clinic; and the Arizona Children's Center, along with three behavioral health centers and 11 neighborhood health centers. To learn more, please visit http://www.ValleywiseHealth.org

The Reis Group

Related Bullying Articles from Brightsurf:

Gender, age divide in new bullying study
Students' emotional resilience is linked to their chances of being victimised, with less resilient students more likely to suffer from harassment, new research shows.

Anti-bullying PEACE program packs a punch
Italian high schools have reported success with a South Australian program to help victims of bullying and aggression.

Arts-based method to detect school bullying
Co-authors Daria Hanolainen and Elena Semenova created and tested an experimental method of graphical vignettes - a set of incomplete comic strips which kids are asked to complete using their own creative vision.

Bullying gets worse as children with autism get older
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to experience bullying than children without ASD and this bullying gets worse with age, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Does obesity increase risk of being a bullying victim, perpetrator, or both?
A new study has shown that obese adolescents are not only significantly more likely to experience bullying, but they are also more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of bullying compared to their healthy weight peers.

Study examines consequences of workplace bullying
New research reveals how frequently being the target of workplace bullying not only leads to health-related problems but can also cause victims to behave badly themselves.

Bullying linked to student's pain medication use
In a school-based survey study of all students in grades 6, 8, and 10 in Iceland, the use of pain medications was significantly higher among bullied students even when controlling for the amount of pain they felt, as well as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Teen girls more vulnerable to bullying than boys
Girls are more often bullied than boys and are more likely to consider, plan, or attempt suicide, according to research led by a Rutgers University-Camden nursing scholar.

Bullying among adolescents hurts both the victims and the perpetrators
About a tenth of adolescents across the globe have been the victim of psychological or physical violence from their classmates.

Bullying evolves with age and proves difficult to escape from
An international team from the Universities of Cordoba, Cambridge and Zurich conducted a study on bullying roles among peers.

Read More: Bullying News and Bullying Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.