The Relationship between Socio-demographic Characteristics, Family Environment, and Caregiver Coping in Families of Children with Cancer

  • Elizabeth A. Gage-BouchardEmail author
  • Katie A. Devine
  • Charles E. Heckler


The factors that influence caregiver coping mechanism preferences after a child’s diagnosis with cancer are not fully understood. This study examines the relationship between caregivers’ socio-demographic characteristics and the coping strategies they use to adapt to childhood cancer. Sixty caregivers of pediatric cancer patients completed a socio-demographic questionnaire, the Family Environment Scale, and the COPE inventory. There were no significant differences in family environment by income or education. Caregiver educational attainment was positively associated with use of planning and active coping styles, while income was not associated with caregiver coping style. Mothers were more likely than fathers to use active coping, instrumental support, religious coping, and emotional support. Men with lower education engaged in greater substance use coping and lower planning. The findings show that educational attainment and caregiver gender influence caregiver coping styles following a pediatric cancer diagnosis and suggest that educational attainment rather than financial resources drive the association between SES and coping. Programs that address educational gaps and teach caregivers planning and active coping skills may be beneficial for parents with lower educational attainment, particularly men.


Socioeconomic status Coping Family environment Gender Cancer 



This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grants R21CA141165, R25CA114101 and R25CA10618. We would like to thank Martin Brecher, Deborah Erwin, Michael Farrell, James Marshall, Debra Street, Robert Wagmiller, Michael Zevon, Gary Morrow, and the anonymous reviewers for their extensive and helpful feedback throughout this project. This research would not have been possible without our dedicated research team, Christina Panagakis, Nikia Clark, Jessica Keaton, Brandee Aquilino, Kristen Fix and all of the families who generously participated in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Gage-Bouchard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katie A. Devine
    • 2
  • Charles E. Heckler
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, The School of Public Health and Health ProfessionsUniversity at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Radiation OncologyUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

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