Assessment of Parental Psychological Stress in Pediatric Cancer: A Review

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ObjectivesWe present an overview of the literature between 1997 and 2007 on parental stress reactions following the diagnosis of childhood cancer and we evaluate methodological strengths and weaknesses of the studies.MethodsPubMed, PsychInfo, and Cinahl databases were used. Sixty-seven were included in the review.ResultsThe conceptualization of parental stress and timing of assessment varies considerably between the studies, which makes comparison difficult. Most emotional stress reactions are seen around the time of diagnosis, with mothers reporting more symptoms than fathers. As a group, parents seem relatively resilient, although a subset of parents reports continuing stress even up to 5 years or more postdiagnosis.ConclusionsThe authors recommend clear definitions of parental stress, fixed points in time to assess parental stress, and an approach that highlights both parental strengths and weaknesses. Improved assessment can contribute to tailoring psychological care to those parents most in need.

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