A review of psychosocial interventions targeting families of children with cancer

Palliat Support Care. 2021 Feb;19(1):103-118. doi: 10.1017/S1478951520000449.


Objective: Psychosocial interventions in families of children with cancer are considered an effective way of empowering family members to tackle the complex hurdles they face. The ability of parents to develop adaptive coping strategies during the child's treatment is not only important to their own mental and physical health, but also to their child's well-being and long-term adjustment with the disease.

Methods: The aim of this review was to evaluate the existing literature for the period from 2009 to 2017 on psychosocial interventions targeting families of children with cancer. We searched the PubMed database using the following combination of keywords: "cancer AND children AND (intervention OR training) AND (mothers OR primary caregivers OR parents OR fathers OR siblings)."

Results: After careful evaluation of 995 papers, 17 full-text papers were found to match our criteria (12 randomized controlled trials and 5 quasi-experimental studies). The quality of the studies was assessed using the Delphi score questionnaire, and the score of the reviewed studies ranged from 3 to 5. The findings suggest that most interventions reduced distress and improved coping strategies among participants. Interventions, mainly cognitive behavioral therapy and problem-solving skills training targeting maternal distress, were associated with improved adjustment outcomes in mothers of children with cancer.

Significance of results: Psychosocial interventions are helpful, and efforts should be made to promote them in a larger scale. Protocols should be implemented to ensure that all parents benefit. Computer-assisted methods may provide additional benefit by improving cancer-related knowledge and cancer-related communication.

Keywords: Children with cancer; Family empowerment; Interventions; Mental health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Child
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Psychosocial Intervention*