Parental spirituality in life-threatening pediatric cancer

J Psychosoc Oncol. May-Jun 2017;35(3):323-334. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2017.1292573. Epub 2017 Feb 8.

Abstract

This study addressed parental spirituality in the context of pediatric cancer with a poor prognosis. Drawing upon previous research implementing a longitudinal grounded theory design examining parental hope, 35 parents were interviewed regarding their experiences with an emergent description of the role of spirituality in parents' daily lives. Spirituality included religious beliefs and practices, notions of a higher force or cosmos, relationship with a divine being, as well as elements emerging from meaning-making and relationships. Parental expectations of spirituality remained relatively constant across data collection time points (3-9 months postdiagnosis), although limited variation occurred relative to shifting circumstance (e.g., deterioration of the child's condition). Spirituality appeared to offer: greater acceptance of parents' inability to protect their child from harm related to her/his life-threatening illness, guidance and emotion decompression, and support from one's faith community. Recommendations for integrating spiritual assessment in clinical care practice are offered.

Keywords: cancer; end of life; meaning making; pediatric cancer; spirituality.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prognosis
  • Qualitative Research
  • Spirituality*
  • Terminal Care