Listening to Family Life After Serious Pediatric Injury: A Study of Four Cases

Shaminka N. Mangelsdorf, Rowena Conroy, Matthias R. Mehl, Peter J. Norton, Eva Alisic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Following a serious child injury, the entire family can be affected. Gaining an understanding of family support, interactions, and stress levels can help clinicians tailor treatment. Presently, these factors are assessed mainly via self-reports and structured observations. We aimed to explore the value of naturalistic observation of postinjury parent–child interactions, in order to highlight how clinicians might use these data in their practice. Our qualitative study involved an in-depth analysis of four cases from the Ear for Recovery project, against the backdrop of the larger sample's characteristics. Children who had been hospitalized with a serious injury wore the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR). Over a two-day period postdischarge, the EAR recorded 30-second audio “snippets” every 5 minutes. Families also completed self-report measures on family functioning, child stress and social support, parent stress, optimism, and self-efficacy. For each case, two coders independently used an ethnographic method, integrating self-report measures, family and injury characteristics, audio recordings, and transcripts to mimic integration of information within clinical practice. The coders then reached consensus on the main themes for each case through discussion. Families showed substantial variation in their communication in terms of content, tone, and frequency, including moments of conflict, humor, and injury-related conversations. We explored how these recorded interactions converged with and diverged from the self-report data. The EAR provided an opportunity for rich descriptions of individual families’ communication and activities, yielding potential clinical information that may be otherwise difficult or impractical to obtain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1191-1208
Number of pages18
JournalFamily Process
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • EMA
  • Injury
  • Parent–child interactions
  • Trauma

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