OBJECTIVE: To investigate the relationship of locus of control, parental age, and state anxiety to parental coping and activities performed during hospitalization of a child in a pediatric critical care center. DESIGN: Cross-sectional. SETTING: Pediatric critical care center at a university medical center. PARTICIPANTS: A convenience sample of 47 parents of 47 children hospitalized in a critical care center. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Parental coping strategies and activities performed during hospitalization in a critical care center. RESULTS: Older, more self-directed and less anxious parents were found to use coping strategies focusing on problem solving rather than on their emotional response to a child's hospitalization. Further, those who used the problem-focused coping modes were more likely to be involved in caring for the child, while parents who used emotion-focused coping modes participated less in care activities. CONCLUSIONS: Appropriate strategies to bolster coping and reduce stress of parents need to be constantly reassessed because coping mechanisms vary according to parental age, locus of control, anxiety level, and parental involvement in child-care activities. More research is needed in the changes of parental coping mechanisms with time and child-care activity, to assess the benefits of interventions planned to encourage a problem-focused approach.