Could we use parent report as a valid proxy of child report on anxiety, depression, and distress? A systematic investigation of father–mother–child triads in children successfully treated for leukemia

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Abstract

Background

Systematic assessment of emotional distress is recommended in after care. Yet, it is unclear if parent report may be used as a proxy of child report. The aim of this study was to assess agreements and differences and explore possible moderators of disagreement between child and parent ratings.

Methods

Sixty-two young survivors treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (9–18 years) and both parents responded to the Beck Youth Inventory (anxiety and depression) and the distress rating scale on the child's status. Parents completed the Brief Symptom Inventory-18 on their own psychological status. Systematic analyses of agreement and differences were performed.

Results

Mother–child and father–child agreements were fair on anxiety, depression, and distress (median intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.37). Differences between parents and children were medium sized (median d = 0.55) with parents giving higher scores than their children on anxiety, depression, and distress. Mothers reported distress more frequently than fathers (39 vs. 17%) when children reported none. The child being female and lower parental income were associated with lower agreement in fathers when rating child distress. Higher levels of parental psychological symptoms were consistently associated with lower agreement.

Conclusions

Parent–child differences when rating adolescent survivors’ difficulties may be more important than previously thought. Parent report probably cannot be considered as a valid proxy of older child report on such internalized domains as anxiety, depression, or distress in the after-care clinic. Parents’ report is also likely to be influenced by their own mood, a factor that should be corrected for when using their report.

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