Parents of children with cancer: a longitudinal study of emotional distress, coping style, and marital adjustment two and twenty months after diagnosis

J Pediatr Psychol. 1996 Aug;21(4):541-54. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/21.4.541.


Evaluated emotional distress, coping style, and marital adjustment in 84 parents (42 couples) of children with cancer 2 months after diagnosis and again about 20 months after diagnosis. As expected, mothers' mean state anxiety and trait anxiety scores decreased to near normal levels over time. Fathers' scores were lower initially and did not change. Neither mothers' nor fathers' mean marital adjustment scores changed over time. Marital adjustment at treatment follow-up was predicted by depression and the spouse's marital satisfaction in mothers, and depression, child health status, and spouse's marital satisfaction in fathers. In contrast to findings obtained 2 months after diagnosis, coping style was not related to marital adjustment at follow-up. Results are discussed in terms of possible gender differences in the role of social support in marital adjustment and the stability versus situational specificity of coping styles.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / etiology
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sampling Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology