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Gender differences in psychological adaptation and coping in parents of pediatric cancer patients

J E Hoekstra-Weebers, J P Jaspers, W A Kamps, E C Klip
Psycho-oncology 1998, 7 (1): 26-36
9516648
This study investigated differences in psychological distress and coping styles between fathers and mothers of pediatric cancer patients, over a 1-year time period. Also examined were (dis)similarities in couples in distress and coping, and the relationship between (dis)similarities in coping and psychological functioning of both members of a couple. Parents (n = 124, 62 couples) were assessed at diagnosis, at 6 and 12 months. Fathers and mothers experienced higher levels of psychiatric symptomatology and psychological distress at diagnosis than men and women of a normgroup. Distress declined significantly with time. Although parents did not report more symptoms than the normgroup 12 months post-diagnosis, they still were psychologically out of balance. Contrary to findings in the general population, no differences were found between fathers and mothers in psychiatric symptoms or psychological distress on any of the measurements. Only a few gender differences in coping were found. Fathers used more active-problem focusing at diagnosis and a less palliative reaction pattern at 12 months than did mothers. Mothers used more social-support seeking on all measurements. A tendency for similarity in the use of the coping styles within couples was found. Discrepancies in coping in couples were positively related to distress in fathers at diagnosis. However, 12 months later, the more discrepant the couples were in their coping preferences the more distress the mothers indicated.

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