A mother has left her hospitalized toddler to go to work. At first, the child is wildly kicking and crying. What stage of separation anxiety is this child in?


• Separation anxiety generally occurs in children between the ages of 8 months and 3 years. Hospitalization can trigger this anxiety as a parent may be away from the child for long periods of time.

The three stages of separation anxiety are:

1) Protest: Crying and making a scene. The child will usually refuse comfort from anyone but the primary caregiver. This can last for days with the child only sleeping when exhausted. Older children may be aggressive or uncooperative.

2) Despair: The child begins to accept that the parents are not going to be around. They are sad, apathetic, and depressed. Older children may lose interest in activities and food.

3) Detachment: The child begins to adjust and becomes more interested and active in their surroundings.

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