Trajectories of Adjustment in Mothers of Children with Newly Diagnosed Cancer: A Natural History Investigation

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ObjectivesThe objectives of this study were (a) to assess negative affectivity and posttraumatic symptomatology in mothers following the diagnosis of cancer in their children; (b) to examine sociodemographic and psychosocial variables associated with change in distress over time; and (c) to identify distinct subgroups of mothers whose patterns and trajectories of adjustment can be distinguished according to available predictor data.MethodsTwo hundred and twelve mothers at seven sites were assessed just following their child's diagnosis, and again 3 months and 6 months later. Primary outcomes included measures of mood disturbance, depressive symptoms, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress.ResultsOverall, mothers demonstrated a pattern of mildly elevated negative affectivity and posttraumatic symptomatology initially, with steady improvements evident at 3- and 6-month follow-up. Distinct adjustment trajectories were evident within the sample as a whole, indicating subgroups of mothers with high-declining, moderate-stable, and low-stable distress levels.ConclusionsThese findings highlight considerable resilience among mothers facing the stress of childhood cancer. Intervention efforts aimed at reducing maternal distress might best be targeted towards the subgroup of mothers who may be predicted to exhibit the highest level of distress.

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