The Take A Breath Research Program (TAB)

The Take A Breath (TAB) research program investigates the prevalence, trajectories and determinants of distress reactions in parents of children (aged 0–18 years) recently diagnosed with a serious childhood illness or injury (SCII), and evaluates an intervention designed to prevent more serious long-term mental health difficulties.

Parental psychological adaption to their child’s SCII has been identified as a significant predictor of child and family psychosocial adjustment both in the short and longer term. A substantive body of descriptive research has established that posttraumatic stress symptoms and other psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety are experienced by a significant subset of parents who have a child with a SCII.

Study Summary
Study name The Take A Breath Research Program
Study abbreviation TAB
Current principal investigator/s Vicki Anderson
Frank Muscara
Jan Nicholson
Meredith Rayner
Maria McCarthy
Kylie Burke
Current project manager

Frank Muscara

Primary Institution/s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute - MCRI
Collaborating Institution/s The Royal Children’s Hospital - RCH
La Trobe University
Parenting Research Centre
University of Queensland
Major funding source/s The Pratt Foundation
Department of Health and Human Services
The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation - RCHF
Study website
Key reference for study
Study focus

Cohort: Investigating the prevalence, trajectories and determinants of parent distress reactions.
RCT: Evaluating the effectiveness of the TAB intervention at reducing parental distress and preventing more serious long-term mental health difficulties.

Sampling frame

Parents of children admitted to 4 different Royal Children's Hospital (Melbourne, Australia) departments: Oncology, Cardiology, Neurology, and Intensive Care.

Primary study type Longitudinal cohort
Primary participant (at recruitment) Parent/guardian
Year commenced


Is this study ongoing? No - the study is complete
Year study ended 2017
Ongoing recruitment? No
Sample size (N)

Cohort: 194; RCT: 231

Survey data available? Yes
Imaging data available? No
Linkage to administrative dataset/s? Yes, linkage to (at least one) administrative dataset completed
Biosamples available? No
Are data available to others outside study team, with appropriate safeguards and structures in line with the cohort’s ethics and governance processes? No
Are there any costs associated with data/sample access for approved requests? There are usually no costs associated with access
Broadest type of participant consent available Extended consent (can be used for future ethically approved research related to this project)


Graj E, Muscara F, Anderson V, Hearps S, McCarthy M. (2021). Quality of life in parents of seriously Ill/injured children: a prospective longitudinal study. Qual Life Res, 30(1), 193 - 202. DOI: 10.1007/s11136-020-02624-0


Currie R, Anderson VA, McCarthy MC, Burke K, Hearps SJ, Muscara F. (2020). Parental distress in response to childhood medical trauma: A mediation model. J Health Psychol, 25(10-11), 1681 - 1691. DOI: 10.1177/1359105318770728

Majmudar IK, Engel L, Muscara F, Stevenson C, McCarthy M, Anderson V, Mihalopoulos C. (2020). Exploring health state utility values of parents of children with a serious illness. Qual Life Res, 29(7), 1947 - 1959. DOI: 10.1007/s11136-020-02466-w

Stokes JR, Muscara F, Zannino D, McCarthy MC, Anderson VA, Nicholson JM, d'Udekem Y. (2020). Surgical and Psychosocial Predictors of Mental Health in Parents of Children With Cardiac Admissions. Ann Thorac Surg, 110(5), 1677 - 1682. DOI: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2020.01.072


Darling SJ, Hearps SJC, Muscara F, McCarthy M, Nicholson JM, Burke K, Dimovski A, Anderson V. (2019). Psychological trajectories of mothers and fathers following their child's diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or injury: A longitudinal investigation. J Clin Psychol, 75(10), 1930 - 1942. DOI: 10.1002/jclp.22829


Muscara F, McCarthy MC, Hearps SJC, Nicholson JM, Burke K, Dimovski A, Darling S, Rayner M, Anderson VA. (2018). Featured Article: Trajectories of Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Parents of Children With a Serious Childhood Illness or Injury. J Pediatr Psychol, 43(10), 1072 - 1082. DOI: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsy035


Muscara F, McCarthy MC, Thompson EJ, Heaney C-M, Hearps SJC, Rayner M, Burke K, Nicholson JM, Anderson VA. (2017). Psychosocial, Demographic, and Illness-Related Factors Associated With Acute Traumatic Stress Responses in Parents of Children With a Serious Illness or Injury. J Trauma Stress, 30(3), 237 - 244. DOI: 10.1002/jts.22193

Thompson EJ, Anderson VA, Hearps SJC, McCarthy MC, Mihalopoulos C, Nicholson JM, Rayner M, Muscara F. (2017). Posttraumatic stress symptom severity and health service utilization in trauma-exposed parents. Health Psychol, 36(8), 779 - 786. DOI: 10.1037/hea0000476


McCarthy MC, Hearps SJC, Muscara F, Anderson VA, Burke K, Hearps SJ, Kazak AE. (2016). Family Psychosocial Risk Screening in Infants and Older Children in the Acute Pediatric Hospital Setting Using the Psychosocial Assessment Tool. J Pediatr Psychol, 41(7), 820 - 829. DOI: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsw055


Muscara F, Burke K, McCarthy MC, Anderson VA, Hearps SJ, Hearps SJ, Dimovski A, Nicholson JM. (2015). Parent distress reactions following a serious illness or injury in their child: a protocol paper for the take a Breath Cohort Study. BMC Psychiatry, 15, 153. DOI: 10.1186/s12888-015-0519-5

Muscara F, McCarthy MC, Woolf C, Hearps SJC, Burke K, Anderson VA. (2015). Early psychological reactions in parents of children with a life threatening illness within a pediatric hospital setting. Eur Psychiatry, 30(5), 555 - 561. DOI: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2014.12.008


Muscara F, McCarthy MC, Rayner M, Nicholson JM, Dimovski A, McMillan L, Hearps SJC, Yamada J, Burke K, Walser R, Anderson VA. (2020). Effect of a Videoconference-Based Online Group Intervention for Traumatic Stress in Parents of Children With Life-threatening Illness: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open, 3(7), e208507. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8507


Rayner M, Muscara F, Dimovski A, McCarthy MC, Yamada J, Anderson VA, Burke K, Walser R, Nicholson JM. (2016). Take A Breath: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of an online group intervention to reduce traumatic stress in parents of children with a life threatening illness or injury. BMC Psychiatry, 16, 169. DOI: 10.1186/s12888-016-0861-2

Study Contacts
Principal investigator/s Vicki Anderson
Frank Muscara
Jan Nicholson
Meredith Rayner
Maria McCarthy
Kylie Burke
Project manager

Frank Muscara

Study Contact

Phone: +613 9936 6653
Address: Child Neuropsychology, West level 4
Murdoch Children's Research Institute,
Royal Children’s Hospital
Flemington Road, Parkville
Victoria 3052 Australia