, Volume 18, Issue 11, pp 1421-1428
Date: 06 Nov 2009

Stress response symptoms in adolescents during the first year after a parent’s cancer diagnosis

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Abstract

Purpose

This work aims to prospectively study stress response symptoms (SRS) in adolescents during the first year after a parent’s cancer diagnosis and factors associated with SRS. Additionally, SRS in these adolescents were compared to SRS in adolescents whose parents were diagnosed 1–5 years (reference group) previously.

Methods

Forty-nine adolescents, 37 ill parents, and 37 spouses completed questionnaires within 4 months after diagnosis (T1) and six (T2) and 12 months (T3) later.

Results

Clinically elevated SRS were found in 29% of adolescents at T1, 16% at T2, and 14% at T3. In contrast, in the reference group, we found 29% clinically elevated SRS. Daughters seemed more at risk than sons. Adolescents’ age, patient’s gender, and intensity and duration of treatment did not significantly affect SRS. Adolescents with more SRS reported having more emotional/behavioral problems. Parents observed fewer problems in those adolescents. Initial SRS affected later SRS and emotional problems.

Conclusions

The findings illustrate that adolescent children of cancer patients may have clinically elevated SRS that are associated with emotional and behavioral problems. The prevalence of such problems may be underestimated by the parents.

This study was supported by a grant from the Dutch Cancer Society (number 2000-2333).