Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in families of adolescent childhood cancer survivors

J Pediatr Psychol. Apr-May 2004;29(3):211-9. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsh022.


Objective: To describe rates and concordance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in adolescent childhood cancer survivors and their mothers and fathers.

Method: Participants were 150 adolescent survivors of childhood cancer, 146 mothers, and 103 fathers who completed the Impact of Events Scale-Revised, the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index, and the PTSD module of the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition.

Results: PTSS are common in families of childhood cancer survivors. Parents reported more symptomatology than former patients. Mothers and fathers had relatively equal rates of current PTSD and levels of PTSS. Nearly 30% of mothers met diagnostic criteria since their child's diagnosis, with 13.7% currently experiencing PTSD. Nearly 20% of families had at least one parent with current PTSD. Ninety-nine percent of the sample had at least one family member reexperiencing symptoms.

Conclusions: Both PTSD and PTSS help in understanding the experience of adolescent cancer survivors and their families. Within families of childhood cancer survivors, it is likely that some member may be experiencing treatable bothersome memories, arousal, or avoidance specific to the cancer experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Health
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology