Advertisement

Children’s Perceived Social Support After a Parent Is Diagnosed with Cancer

  • Melisa Wong
  • Jamie Ratner
  • Kenneth A. Gladstone
  • Arpine Davtyan
  • Cheryl Koopman
Article

Abstract

This study examined perceived social support among children of parents diagnosed with cancer. Twenty-nine participants, ages 18–38, who had been children when one of their parents was diagnosed with cancer provided demographic information and participated in an interview about the impact of their parent’s illness on their lives. Five common themes characterized participants’ perceived social support received during their parent’s illness: (a) listening and understanding; (b) encouragement and reassurance; (c) tangible assistance; (d) communication about cancer and treatment; and (e) engaging in normal life experiences. Depending on the circumstances, however, a given type of social support was perceived to be helpful to some, while perceived by others as ineffective or detrimental. Differences in respondents’ perceptions of the effects of specific forms of received social support speak to the need for individualized support for children of cancer patients based upon each child’s specific needs and circumstances.

Keywords

Children Parents Families Perceived social support Cancer 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by a Chappell-Lougee Scholarship to Melisa Wong from the Stanford University Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. We also are grateful to the participants in this study and for the support and assistance of Laura Selznick.

References

  1. Adler, N. E., Epel, E. S., Castellazzo, G., & Ickovics, J. R. (2000). Relationship of subjective and objective social status with psychological and physiological functioning: Preliminary data in healthy, White women. Health Psychology, 19, 586–592.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310–357.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Compas, B. E., Worsham, N. L., Epping-Jordan, J. E., Grant, K. E., Mireault, G., & Howell, D. C. (1994). When mom or dad has cancer: Markers of psychological distress in cancer patients, spouses, and children. Health Psychology, 13, 507–515.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Davidson, J. D., & Doka, K. J. (Eds.). (1999). Living with grief: At work, at school, at worship. Washington, DC: Hospice Foundation of America.Google Scholar
  5. Folkman, S., Chesney, M., McKusick, L., Ironson, G., Johnson, D. S., & Coates, T. J. (1991). Translating coping theory into an intervention. In J. Eckenrode (Ed.), The social context of coping (pp. 239–260). Ithaca, NY: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  6. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  7. Gleason, M. E. J., Iida, M., Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2008). Receiving support as a mixed blessing: Evidence for dual effects of support on psychological outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 824–838.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Gray, R. E. (1989). Adolescents’ perceptions of social support after the death of a parent. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 7, 127–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Haber, S. (1994). Psychological impact of breast cancer on the patient and the family: A clinical perspective. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 1, 331–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Heiney, S. P., Bryant, L. H., Walker, S., Parrish, R. S., Provenzano, F. J., & Kelly, K. E. (1997). Impact of parental anxiety on child emotional adjustment when a parent has cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 24, 655–661.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Helseth, S., & Ulfsaet, N. (2003). Having a parent with cancer: Coping and quality of life of children during serious illness in the family. Cancer Nursing, 26, 355–362.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Huizinga, G. A., van der Graaf, W. T. A., Visser, A., Dijkstra, J. S., & Hoekstra-Weebers, J. E. H. M. (2003). Psychosocial consequences for children of a parent with cancer: A pilot study. Cancer Nursing, 26, 195–202.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Huizinga, G. A., Visser, A., van der Graaf, W. T. A., Hoekstra, H. J., & Hoekstra-Weebers, J. E. H. M. (2005). The quality of communication between parents and adolescent children in the case of parental cancer. Annals of Oncology, 16, 1956–1961.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Koopman, C., Hermanson, K., Angell, K., Diamond, S., & Spiegel, D. (1998). Social support, life stress, and adjustment to advanced breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 7, 101–111.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Lewis, F. M., & Hammond, M. A. (1996). The father’s, mother’s, and adolescent’s functioning with breast cancer. Family Relations: Journal of Applied Family and Child Studies, 45, 456–465.Google Scholar
  16. Maxwell, J. A. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  17. McDaniel, S. H., & LeRoux, P. (2007). An overview of primary care family psychology. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 14, 23–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nelson, E., Sloper, P., Charlton, A., & While, D. (1994). Children who have a parent with cancer. Journal of Cancer Education, 19, 30–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Normand, C. L., Silverman, P. R., & Nickman, S. L. (1996). Bereaved children’s changing relationships with the deceased. In D. Klass, P. R. Silverman, & S. L. Nickman (Eds.), Continuing bonds: New understandings of grief (pp. 87–112). Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  20. Paradis, M., Consoli, S. M., Marcel, J., & Katabi, P. (2008a). Resiliency supports: A possible tool for helping children when a parent suffers from cancer. La Presse Médicale, 37, 1787–1791.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Paradis, M., Consoli, S. M., Pelicier, N., Lucas, V., Jian, R., & Andrieu, J. M. (2008b). Influence of the communication about one parent’s cancer on children’s suffering. La Revue de Médecine Interne, 29, 986–993.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Romanoff, B. D., & Thompson, B. E. (2006). Meaning construction in palliative care: The use of narrative, ritual, and the expressive arts. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 23, 309–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Schwarzer, R., Dunkel-Schetter, C., & Kemeny, M. (1994). The multidimensional nature of received social support in gay men at risk of HIV infection and AIDS. American Journal of Community Psychology, 22, 319–339.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Schwarzer, R., Knoll, N., & Rieckmann, N. (2003). Social support. In A. Kaptein & J. Weinman (Eds.), Health psychology (pp. 158–181). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  25. Siegel, K., Mesagno, F. P., Karus, D., Christ, G., Banks, K., & Moynihan, R. (1992). Psychosocial adjustment of children with a terminally ill parent. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 327–333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Su, Y., & Ryan-Wenger, N. A. (2007). Children’s adjustment to parental cancer: A theoretical model development. Cancer Nursing, 30, 362–381.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Tercyak, K. P., Streisand, R., Peshkin, B. N., & Lerman, C. (2000). Psychosocial impact of predictive testing for illness on children and families: Challenges for a new millennium. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 7, 55–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Thastum, M., Johansen, M. B., Gubba, L., Olesen, L. B., & Romer, G. (2008). Coping, social relations, and communication: A qualitative exploratory study of children of parents with cancer. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 13, 123–138.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Thastum, M., Munch-Hansen, A., Wiell, A., & Romer, G. (2006). Evaluation of a focused short-term preventive counseling project for families with a parent with cancer. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11, 529–542.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Wong, M. L., Cavanaugh, C. E., MacLeamy, J., Sojourner-Nelson, A., & Koopman, C. (2009). Posttraumatic growth and adverse long-term effects of parental cancer in children. Family, Systems, and Health, 27, 53–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wong, M., Looney, E., Michaels, J., Palesh, O., & Koopman, C. (2006). A preliminary study of peritraumatic dissociation, social support, and coping in relation to posttraumatic stress symptoms for a parent’s cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 15, 1093–1098.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melisa Wong
    • 1
  • Jamie Ratner
    • 2
  • Kenneth A. Gladstone
    • 2
  • Arpine Davtyan
    • 3
  • Cheryl Koopman
    • 3
  1. 1.Program in Human BiologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford University Psy.D. ConsortiumPalo Alto UniversityPalo AltoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, MC: 5718Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations