, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 293-310
Date: 27 Nov 2012

Financial and Social Effects on Children and Adolescents when a Parent is Diagnosed with Cancer

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the financial effects of cancer on families in which a parent has cancer and lives with his/her children, to identify financial hardship risk factors, and to describe the children’s experiences regarding the impact of cancer on their socioeconomic situation. A mixed-methods research approach was applied. Norwegian cancer patients living with their children (≤18 years) completed a questionnaire (n = 386). Ten children (≤18 years) of cancer patients were given in-depth interviews regarding their experiences associated with the family’s socioeconomic situation. Eight percent of the cancer patients reported a poor financial situation. Fourteen percent of the patients had to minimize their expenditures on goods and activities for their children because of costs attributed to cancer. Risk factors for cancer-related financial hardships affecting children were single parenthood, not working, metastasis, chemotherapy and additional health impairments. Qualitative descriptions suggest that parents shield their children from financial hardships. The children were generally not concerned with their family’s financial issues, but certain older children took responsibility for the household financial situation by obtaining employment and declining expensive gifts and activities. The children were more preoccupied with caring for the sick parent and coping with their own emotions. Despite some families being at greater risk for financial hardships when a parent is diagnosed with cancer, most Norwegian families with children are not seriously affected by the parents’ cancer status. These children should be regarded as significant informal caregivers. The family’s financial situation should be included in a holistic assessment during the cancer follow-up period.