Psychological distress and the impact of social support on fathers and mothers of pediatric cancer patients: long-term prospective results

Barbara J Wijnberg-Williams, Willem A Kamps, Ed C Klip, Josette E H M Hoekstra-Weebers
Journal of Pediatric Psychology 2006, 31 (8): 785-92

OBJECTIVE: To explore the effects of social support on psychological distress of parents of pediatric cancer patients using a prospective design over a 5-year period.

METHODS: Parents of children diagnosed with cancer participated at diagnosis (T1), 6 months (T2), 12 months (T3), and 5 years later (T4). Instruments The General Health Questionnaire and the Social Support List (SSL) measuring amount of support, (dis)satisfaction with support, and negative interactions were administered.

RESULTS: Psychological distress and amount of support received decreased significantly from diagnosis to T4. No significant change in (dis)satisfaction with support and negative interactions was found. Social support variables did not show any concurrent or prospective significant effect on mothers' distress at T4. Dissatisfaction with support showed a significant unique concurrent effect on fathers' distress at T4 and negative interactions had a prospective unique effect.

CONCLUSIONS: Dissatisfaction with support and negative interactions that fathers experienced significantly affected their levels of psychological distress. No such effect was found for mothers.

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