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The prevalence and role of coping strategies in the nutritional intake of children born with esophageal atresia: a condition-specific approach

Journal article
Authors Michaela Dellenmark-Blom
John Chaplin
J. H. Quitmann
L. Jönsson
V. Gatzinsky
J. Dingemann
Kate Abrahamsson
Published in Diseases of the esophagus : official journal of the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus
Volume 32
Issue 7
ISSN 1442-2050
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Pediatrics
Language en
Keywords adaptation, coping, esophageal atresia, feeding difficulties, quality of life
Subject categories Pediatrics


This study describes results of a condition-specific approach to the assessment of coping strategies in nutritional intake situations used by children with esophageal atresia. One hundred three families of children 2-17 years old with esophageal atresia participated (94% response rate). Following standardized focus groups with 30 families, nine coping items were developed, reflecting nine different coping strategies in nutritional intake situations. The coping items were pilot tested by 73 new families and evaluated for feasibility, validity, and reliability. The families also completed a validated condition-specific quality-of-life questionnaire for children with esophageal atresia, which included the scale Eating-Quality-of-life. Data were analyzed using descriptives, between-group analysis, and Spearman's rho (P < 0.05). Altogether, the coping items were feasible, valid, and reliable. Items reflecting problem-focused strategies revealed that 89% of 2-17 years old 'recognized their responsibility' and managed nutritional intake problems on their own, 79% 'tried to solve their feeding problems' testing different solutions, 79% took a 'confronting approach' to do what peers did in eating situations, and 54% 'sought other people's support'. Items reflecting emotion-focused strategies showed that 86% of the children 'accepted' their feeding difficulties, 68% 'reappraised feeding difficulties into positive outcomes' such as to eat only when food tasted good. Moreover, 63% of the children 'avoided' nutritional intake situations, 29% 'expressed worry or fear' when faced with these situations, while 25% 'distanced' themselves from eating problems by hiding or throwing away food. The children's use of coping strategies were mostly related to the existence of digestive symptoms (P < 0.05). Positive and negative coping strategies were identified. Of particular note was a correlation cluster of the so-called disengagement strategies 'avoidance', 'expression of emotional concerns' and 'distancing'. These strategies were negatively correlated with Eating-Quality-of-Life. Conversely, taking a 'confronting approach' correlated positively with Eating-Quality-of-life (P < 0.05). Hence, most children with esophageal atresia employ various coping strategies in nutritional intake situations. A good Eating-Quality-of-life may be positively affected by treating digestive morbidity and encouraging children to take an active approach to their eating problems rather than using disengagement coping. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus.

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