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28-06-2020 | Original Paper | Uitgave 8/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 8/2020

Supporting Children Living with Chronic Medical Conditions Through Empathetic Art

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 8/2020
Judy Rollins, Christine Rollins, Lori Anne Boocks, Terry Sitz
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Supplementary Information

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10826-020-01738-w) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Empathy has been shown to reduce stress for children coping with healthcare experiences. This descriptive study explored the ability of professional artists to express empathy through paintings created for children with chronic medical conditions. Aims included (1) to artistically describe children with serious chronic medical conditions; (2) to capture the children’s responses to a personal empathetic art piece; (3) to explore the ability of an intervention using the artwork to reduce heart rate and improve children’s present functioning quality of life (QOL); and (4) to determine the meaning of the experience for the artists. This grounded theory study used a mixed methods design that included interview, observation, art making, heart rate, and PedsQL™ Present Functioning VAS. Two artists created paintings for eight children (ages 10–19 years) following a one-time interview. Quantitative measures were taken pre- and post-debriefing/art therapy intervention. Artistic descriptions reflected the children as being more than their chronic medical conditions. Children acknowledged feeling that they had been heard. Reduction in heart rate was statistically significant (p = 0.025, at p < 0.05). PedsQL™ VAS scores indicated a trend toward improved present functioning QOL (p = 0.0667). Study participation was both meaningful and stressful for the artists. Findings support the emergent theory that professional artists who can listen with an empathetic ear and then express empathy through their art can help humanize pediatric healthcare and increase flourishing for children with chronic medical conditions.

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