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

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


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.


Children Parents Families Perceived social support Cancer 



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.


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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

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