PSYCHOLOGICAL ADJUSTMENT OF PARENTS OF PEDIATRIC CANCER PATIENTS REVISITED: FIVE YEARS LATER


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Abstract

SUMMARYWe investigated the psychological functioning of parents of children suffering from pediatric cancer using a prospective design over a five-year time period. Parents of children diagnosed with cancer participated at diagnosis (T1), six months (T2), twelve months (T3), and five years later (T4, n = 115). Repeated measures ANOVAs were calculated for the three measures of psychological distress (GHQ, SCL-90 and STAI-S) to examine changes over time and gender differences. Independent T-tests were computed to examine differences between the mean scores of the parents at T4 and the norm groups. The effects of health status and earlier levels of distress on T4 functioning were examined using ANOVA and partial correlational analysis. Results showed that levels of reported distress, psychoneurotic symptoms and state anxiety significantly decreased across time to normal levels at T4 except on the GHQ. A significantly higher percentage of parents (27%) than in the norm group (15%) showed clinically elevated scores on the GHQ. Mothers had higher scores than fathers only on state anxiety. Parents of relapsed children reported higher anxiety levels than parents of surviving and deceased children. Psychological functioning at T1 was significantly related to functioning at T4. These results support the conclusion that although parental distress decreases with time, a significant number of parents still suffer from clinical distress after five years. Parents of relapsed children are at risk for long-term psychological problems as are those with higher levels of psychosomatic complaints at diagnosis.

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