Pediatric psychology

Group head: Elisabeth Utens

Pediatric psychology is young field of science and practice, focusing on developmental disorders and psychosocial problems associated with (chronic) pediatric conditions and their medical treatment. The field aims to minimalise the adverse impact of pediatric conditions and to promote the development and psychosocial functioning of children, adolescents, and their families through use of evidence-based methods.

Due to enormous advances in medical techniques and treatment, survival of children with (chronic) somatic conditions has increased substantially. As a consequence, the focus has shifted from mortality and morbidity, to psychosocial outcomes and health related quality of life. The impact of childhood somatic conditions can adversely affect the emotional, cognitive and social functioning and health related quality of life, e.g. due to somatic sequelae, hospital appointments, restricted activities and anxiety and worry. Above this, quality of life of parents and siblings can be affected too.

The main objective of our research group is:
1) to investigate developmental disorders, (long-term) psychosocial functioning and health related quality of life in large cohorts of children, adolescents and (young) adults with somatic conditions and also the emotional adjustment of their families. Research is performed at present in children with for example congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, children with facial disfigurement, meningococcal septic shock, neurofibromatosis type 1, tuberous sclerosis, Angelman syndrome.
2) to study factors that have influence on the etiology and course of psychosocial outcomes of pediatric medical conditions and accompanying developmental disorders; 
3) to perform  longitudinal randomized controlled intervention studies to enhance psychosocial functioning and emotional resilience in children with somatic conditions. (Examples are: the TOFFIT study into the effect of a rehabilitation training program on exercise capacity in children with congenital heart disease, and the Simcoda study to evaluate the effect of treatment with statins on cognition and daily life in children with neurofibromatosis type 1).

Research group
- Dulfer, Karolijn  PhD student
- Tepper, Leonie  PhD student
- Willem Leemreis, PhD student
- Andre Rietman, PhD student

Collaborations
- Departments of Paediatric Cardiology, Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery , Paediatric Intensive Care, Pediatric Pulmonology, Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy of the Erasmus University.
- Center for Health Services and Nursing Research, University Hospitals Leuven,  Belgium. Department of Paediatric  Cardiology  and Adults with Congenital Heart Defect, San Donato Hospital, Milan, Italy