Risk factors for psychological maladjustment of parents of children with cancer

J E Hoekstra-Weebers, J P Jaspers, W A Kamps, E C Klip
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1999, 38 (12): 1526-35

OBJECTIVE: To examine risk variables for future, more immediate, and persistent psychological distress of parents of pediatric cancer patients.

METHOD: Parents (n = 128) completed questionnaires at the time of diagnosis (T1) and 12 months later (T2). Multiple regression analyses were performed using the following as predictors: demographics, illness-related variables, other life events, personality, coping styles, and social support.

RESULTS: Trait anxiety was the strongest predictor of both fathers' and mothers' future distress. Changes in trait anxiety during the year also accompanied changes in both parents' levels of distress. Additional prospective predictors for fathers were the coping style "social support-seeking" and dissatisfaction with support. Dissatisfaction with support also had short-term effects for fathers. An additional prospective predictor for mothers was the number of pleasant events they had experienced prior to diagnosis, while a short-term effect was found for performance in assertiveness. No predictors for the persistence of distress were found.

CONCLUSIONS: These results underscore the importance of personality anxiety in predicting parents' risk for adjustment difficulties associated with the experience of cancer in one's child. An additional risk factor for fathers was social support. For mothers, previously experienced life events and the frequency of assertive behavior were additional risk factors.

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