Cartoons: World's Best Pacifier?
> 8/18/2006 9:26:11 AM

There's not many universals in medicine. Patients are individuals, and each situation more often than not presents a unique wrinkle or circumstance. But if there's one thing that you can be certain of, it's that children are terrified of needles. Receiving immunizations and drawing blood can be two of the most stressful situations in a youngsters life. So into this environment that Italian researchers stepped recently to test a hypothesis about reducing the stress level of children in this frightening time.

As reported by CBS News, Dr. Carlo Bellieni and his team at the University of Siena created a study in which groups of 69 children who were scheduled for blood tests were provided three levels of distraction. While in all groups the child's mother accompanied him or her during the blood test, in one group the mother was asked to distract the child and in another she was asked to not distract the child. The interesting group, however, was the third, where the children were allowed to start watching cartoons shortly before the tests began and continue to watch throughout. Afterward, each child was ask to rate the amount of pain they experienced, and mothers were asked to rate their child's pain as well.

Not only did the children in the television group rank their pain the lowest, but their mothers consistently registered less pain on the part of their children as well. Moreover, the group distracted by their mothers showed virtually no difference from the group whose mothers were asked not to interact with them. For some, these results may prove distressing. Is a mother no match for television in providing comfort to her child in a stressful situation?

The answer is that these two things can't even be compared. CBS concludes with the team's words:

In school-aged kids, watching TV may reduce distress "more than maternal attempts at distraction" during blood tests, write Bellieni and colleagues. But the researchers aren't banishing moms to the waiting room.

"This does not mean that the mothers' presence is negative," Bellieni's team writes. "Although it does not reduce pain, the children will recall that they were not left alone on a stressful occasion."

The relationship between child and mother, and indeed between any two people is fundamentally different from that between a child and the distraction of a television. If all the team had hoped to do was find out if children experienced less stress in one situation than when compared to interacting with their mothers, why not just have them pop a Xanex? They probably wouldn't even know they were having blood tests done.

Person to person interaction is not meant to reduce stress. Sure, in a perfect world, a mother's attention would be all that was necessary to send us to a happy place, but in reality, there are much more efficient ways of distracting ourselves. What this study didn't look at was previous television exposure. All kinds of questions swirl around what role TV has played in the child's life prior to this experiment, and if these things were controlled for, there might be very different results. It might not be a cure all, but in many cases, generations of evidence have shown, there is no replacement for a mother's love.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy