Maternal Coping and Depressive Symptoms as Predictors of Mother–Child Communication About a Child’s Cancer

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Objective This study sought to identify possible associations between maternal coping and depression and subsequent mother–child communication about cancer following the child’s diagnosis. Method Mothers (N = 100) reported on coping and depressive symptoms shortly after the child’s diagnosis (M = 1.9 months). Subsequently, we observed children (age 5–17 years; M = 10.2 years; 48% female; 81% White) and mothers discussing cancer and coded maternal communication. Results Higher primary and secondary control coping, and lower depressive symptoms, were generally correlated with more positive, and less harsh and withdrawn communication. In regression models, higher primary control coping (i.e., coping efforts to change the stressor or one’s emotional reaction to the stressor) independently predicted less withdrawn communication, and depressive symptoms mediated relations between coping and harsh communication. Conclusions Maternal primary control coping and depressive symptoms predict mothers’ subsequent harsh and withdrawn communication about cancer.

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