Parents experience considerable distress when their children are subjected to cardiac surgery. This study investigated their psychological and emotional experiences. As part of a prospective study reviewing the emotional and psychological outcomes of children aged 2-12 years subjected to cardiac surgery, that age group being chosen to allow for objective testing following infancy and before adolescence, their parents were assessed prior to and 12-50 months following the surgery. The measures reviewed their mental health, locus of control, family functioning and social support. There were 39 children. Most of the parental information was obtained from the mothers, who reported increased anxiety, and a tendency to attribute events to luck and/or chance greater than published norms, irrespective of the cardiac anomaly, whether the surgery was 'curative', or if further surgery was required. At follow-up, their ratings approximated to norms, except for a continued perception that life events were a function of fate and beyond one's control. The results confirmed that a substantial increase in the emotional distress of mothers at the time of surgery essentially resolved by 12 months or later. In contrast, they still seemed not to feel in 'control' when reviewed on follow-up.