Optimistic expectations about outcomes have significant implications for behaviors. Knowing the role that dispositional optimism plays in parents' anxiety and coping responses during their child's surgical experience is essential to aid professionals in bolstering parents' coping and providing support. Parental optimism, anxiety and coping, and whether optimism moderated (changed) the anxiety-coping relationship preoperatively and postoperatively were the factors evaluated in this study. Parents (N = 60) primarily white of middle and upper middle class, were administered the Life Orientation Test to assess optimism, Spielberger's State Anxiety Scale and the Ways of Coping Questionnaire. Parental anxiety decreased significantly from preoperative to postoperative levels but remained high, indicating that parents continue to be emotionally distressed during their child's recovery. Reappraising the situation more positively (positive reappraisal) was the most often used emotion-focused coping strategy and seeking social support was the most often used problem-focused coping strategy. The preoperative and postoperative anxiety-coping relationships also depended on parents' levels of optimism. The use of emotion-focused coping strategies was not effective for reducing anxiety in highly optimistic parents. Recommendations include continually assessing the parents' need for reassurance and support throughout the surgical experience. Professionals can bolster parental coping by stressing the benefits of surgery and encouraging parents to be actively involved in the child's care and progress.
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