Impact of pediatric cancer on family relationships

Cancer Med. 2018 May;7(5):1680-1688. doi: 10.1002/cam4.1393. Epub 2018 Mar 25.


Little is known about the impact of cancer on family relationships from the perspective of the pediatric cancer patient and their sibling(s). This study assessed and compared children's experiences of family relationships in patients receiving active cancer therapy, those who have completed therapy, and siblings. A cross-sectional study of children with cancer and their siblings aged 8-17 years old was conducted. Children completed the PROMIS Pediatric Family Relationships short form and the Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Peer Relationships short forms. The Mann-Whitney test assessed differences in Family Relationships scores between therapy groups, while the Wilcoxon signed-rank test assessed differences between patients and siblings. An actor-partner interdependence model (APIM) was used to assess how patient and sibling variables were associated with their own and each others' family relationships. Two hundred and sixty-five children completed the assessments. Siblings of patients on-therapy had worse family relationships than patients on-therapy (P = 0.015). Family relationships of patients off-therapy did not differ from their siblings or the patients on-therapy. Family relationships scores did not differ between the sibling cohorts. The APIM found patient family relationships were impaired when their own peer relationships decreased and when either their own or their siblings had increased depressive symptoms. Sibling family relationships were impaired when their own depression increased, and when the patient counterpart was female, younger age, had less depressive symptoms, more anxiety or a diagnosis of leukemia/lymphoma (compared to solid tumor). Based on these findings, increased psychosocial resources for patients and siblings of children undergoing cancer therapy may be warranted.

Keywords: PROMIS; Family relationships; pediatric oncology; quality of life; siblings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Sibling Relations
  • Siblings / psychology*