Predictors of distress in parents of children with cancer: a prospective study

J Pediatr Psychol. 2000 Mar;25(2):79-91. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/25.2.79.


Objective: To investigate levels of psychological distress in parents of children with cancer and relationships between distress and measures of illness variables, appraisal, psychosocial resources and coping strategies.

Methods: Questionnaires were completed by 68 mothers and 58 fathers at 6 (Time 1) and 18 (Time 2) months post-diagnosis.

Results: High levels of distress for 51% of mothers and around 40% of fathers were apparent at both time points, with little change over time. For mothers, their appraisal of the strain of the illness, and their own ability to deal with it, and family cohesion were predictive of distress, both concurrently and prospectively, and, at Time 1, greater use of self-directed coping strategies was related to higher levels of distress. For fathers, risk factors of employment problems (Time 1) and the number of the child's hospital admissions (Time 2) were significant, along with appraisal and family cohesion.

Conclusions: Continuation of high levels of distress over time points to the importance of identification of those at risk at an early stage and provision of ongoing support. Implications for such support are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Neoplasms*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires