Psychosocial Adjustment in School-age Girls With a Family History of Breast Cancer

Pediatrics. 2015 Nov;136(5):927-37. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-0498. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


Objective: Understanding how young girls respond to growing up with breast cancer family histories is critical given expansion of genetic testing and breast cancer messaging. We examined the impact of breast cancer family history on psychosocial adjustment and health behaviors among >800 girls in the multicenter LEGACY Girls Study.

Methods: Girls aged 6 to 13 years with a family history of breast cancer or familial BRCA1/2 mutation (BCFH+), peers without a family history (BCFH-), and their biological mothers completed assessments of psychosocial adjustment (maternal report for 6- to 13-year-olds, self-report for 10- to 13-year-olds), breast cancer-specific distress, perceived risk of breast cancer, and health behaviors (10- to 13-year-olds).

Results: BCFH+ girls had better general psychosocial adjustment than BCFH- peers by maternal report. Psychosocial adjustment and health behaviors did not differ significantly by self-report among 10- to 13-year-old girls. BCFH+ girls reported higher breast cancer-specific distress (P = .001) and were more likely to report themselves at increased breast cancer risk than BCFH- peers (38.4% vs 13.7%, P < .001), although many girls were unsure of their risk. In multivariable analyses, higher daughter anxiety was associated with higher maternal anxiety and poorer family communication. Higher daughter breast cancer-specific distress was associated with higher maternal breast cancer-specific distress.

Conclusions: Although growing up in a family at risk for breast cancer does not negatively affect general psychosocial adjustment among preadolescent girls, those from breast cancer risk families experience greater breast cancer-specific distress. Interventions to address daughter and mother breast cancer concerns and responses to genetic or familial risk might improve psychosocial outcomes of teen daughters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Psychology, Child*

Supplementary concepts

  • Breast Cancer, Familial