The psychosocial themes of children with a congenital heart defect

  • Ronél van der Watt
  • Carina Pheiffer
  • Stephen Brown


Children living with a congenital heart defect (CHD) carry the burden of a condition affecting their biological, psychological, and social functioning. Even though the physical heartbeats of these children might be inaudible and defective, their intra- and inter-personal ‘stories in sound’ need to be heard and understood. The aim of this research study was to explore these ‘stories in sound’ in children diagnosed with CHD. A qualitative, exploratory, descriptive study using thematic analysis was conducted.  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six boys and three girls between the ages of eight and fourteen years, who were diagnosed with CHD. The developmental psychopathology model (DPM) served as a conceptual framework. Five main themes  emerged and were related to (i) the participants’ understanding of their cardiac diagnoses; (ii) the participants’ perceptions  regarding their   post-operative cardiac statuses; (iii) the participants’ psychological experiences related to their cardiac  statuses; (iv) the effects of living with CHD on their social functioning; and (v) a unique relationship to their chronic cardiac  condition. Within each of these themes, thirteen subthemes were identified. The article concludes that an age-appropriate  understanding of CHD and post-operative cardiac status is  important, as children’s perceptions have implications for their psychosocial  experiences and acceptance of living with CHD. These children need comprehensive support from health care professionals.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1728-0591
print ISSN: 1728-0583