Posttraumatic growth as experienced by childhood cancer survivors and their families: a narrative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative research

J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2013 Jul-Aug;30(4):179-97. doi: 10.1177/1043454213487433. Epub 2013 May 8.


Confronting with a life-threatening illness may serve as an opportunity for self-renewal and spiritual and personal growth. Posttraumatic growth refers to the experience of positive change resulting from the struggle and/or cognitive engagement with the existential challenges of life events. The more stressful a life situation is, the more potential it provides for personal growth. This article is a report of a narrative synthesis of empirical research reporting the positive effects of cancer perceived by the childhood cancer survivors and their families. A total of 35 studies included 20 quantitative, 12 qualitative, and 3 mixed studies (involving 2087 childhood cancer survivors, 1115 parents, and 159 healthy siblings). They were published between 1975 and 2010 and conducted in 9 countries. Five themes were identified: (1) meaning-making, (2) appreciation of life, (3) self-awareness, (4) closeness and family togetherness, and (5) a desire to pay back society. The findings suggest that illness becomes our best teacher to get to know ourselves at a deeper level and the world in a new dimension with new meaning. Working through an illness brings out our best, teaching us what life is all about.

Keywords: childhood cancer survivors; families; narrative synthesis; posttraumatic growth; stress-related growth.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Narration*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Survivors*