Pilot evaluation of the impact of structured child-centered interventions on psychiatric symptom profile of parents with serious somatic illness: struggle for life trial

J Psychosoc Oncol. 2012;30(3):316-30. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2012.664258.


This is a trial of cancer patients who are seriously somatically ill and of how their distress affects their spouse or children. In the pilot phase the authors examined whether there are changes in psychiatric symptom profile of seriously somatically ill and healthy parents between assessments concerning a situation before the onset of parental illness, in current situation before intervention and 4 months after the intervention. The study is a family cluster, randomized, controlled treatment trial for parents and children in families with a parent who has a serious somatic illness. Global Severity Index (GSI) and psychiatric symptom profile of parents was assessed with the Symptoms Checklist-90 for adults. At pilot evaluation phase of the Struggle for Life trial, a total of 19 families (16 patients, 15 spouses) participated in the baseline assessment conducted before intervention, and 10 families (seven patients, seven spouses) also at the 4-month follow-up after the intervention. The interventions used in this study were the short Let's Talk about Children including two meetings with parents and more intensive Family Talk Intervention consisting of six to eight meetings with parents, children, and whole family. At the 4-month follow-up the GSI score of the patients and spouses was significantly decreased compared to the baseline score. At the baseline the GSI score of the patients was at the same level as that of the psychiatric outpatient sample, whereas at the 4-month follow-up it was at the same level as in the general population. This study lends support to previous studies that recommend that treatment practice should include structured interventions with parents concerning parenting and the wellbeing of children.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome