Development and validity of an instrument for the assessment of family subsystems of hospitalized pediatric patients by chronic illness (eSisFam)

Karmina Elena Rojas Carrasco, Corina Benjet, Rebeca Robles García, Lucy Reidl Martínez



Background. According to the family systems model, the family consists of three main subsystems: marital, parental and filial, all of which perform specific functions. A chronic pediatric illness presents challenges to these subsystems leading family members to make the necessary adjustments in order to maintain system balance. The evaluation of families in a public hospital setting is hampered by time constraints and limited human resources to carry out a precise evaluation.

Objective. The aim of this study was to develop and validate a practical instrument for, evaluation of family subsystems during the hospitalization of a pediatric patient with a chronic illness (eSisFam).

Method. Based on a review of scientific literature and well-known family functioning instruments, a new measure with four sections was developed: the general system and the marital, parental and filial subsystems. This was applied to 312 primary caregivers of chronically ill hospitalized pediatric patients in a public pediatric hospital. Likert-type items with four response options were self-administered with a computer program. Content validity, construct validity and reliability were assessed.

Results. Content validity was obtained by 80% agreement between judges. Construct validity was evaluated by exploratory factor analysis, resulting in three factors for the general system (cohesion, communication and adaptation); two for the marital subsystem (affective-sexual relationship and distancing-infidelity); three for the parental subsystem (well-being, shared responsibility and care of siblings), and three for the filial subsystem (well-being, illness knowledge and acceptation-participation). We assessed the internal consistency with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients; these were higher than 0.80 in all subscales.

Discussion and conclusion. The instrument (eSisfam) that was developed is a valid and reliable measure to assess general family system functioning and marital, parental and filial subsystems. This measure could be used in pediatric hospitals for the early detection of family situations that might interfere with child or adolescent medical attention.


Family assessment; family subsystems; pediatric chronic illness