Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 295–304 | Cite as

The role of religion in coping with childhood cancer

  • Bernard Spilka
  • William J. Zwartjes
  • Georgia M. Zwartjes


The role of religion in the crisis of childhood cancer was explored through interviews with 265 members of 118 families that had a child with cancer. Measures of family and patient religiosity were related to a broad spectrum of parental and patient perceptions and activities. Evidence was obtained that the religion related positively to familial support of the patient and efforts to keep school performance at pre-illness levels. There were signs of a narrowing of the family's social field while relationships with close friends were strengthened. Religion appeared to act as a protective-defensive system that motivated efforts by family members to cope constructively with the crisis of illness.


Family Member Broad Spectrum School Performance Close Friend Childhood Cancer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acklin, M. W., Brown, E. C., & Mauger, P. A., (1983). The role of religious values in coping with cancer.Journal of Religion and Health, 22, 322–333.Google Scholar
  2. Barbarin, O. A. (1987). Psychosocial risks and invulnerability: A review of the theoretical and empirical bases of preventive family-focused services for survivors of childhood cancer.Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 5(4), 25–41.Google Scholar
  3. Bateman, M. M. & Jensen, J. S. (1958). The effect of religious background on modes of handling anger.Journal of Social Psychology, 47, 133–141.Google Scholar
  4. Dana, B. (1967). The integration of medicine and other community services. InSymposium on Catastrophic Illness: Impact on Families, Challenges to the Professions. New York: Cancer Care Inc. of the National Cancer Foundation, 57–62.Google Scholar
  5. Dittes, J. E. (1971). Religion, prejudice, and personality. in M. B. Strommen (Ed.),Research on religious development. New York: Hawthorn, 355–390.Google Scholar
  6. Donahue, M. J. (1985). Intrinsic and extrinsic religiousness: Review and meta-analysis.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 400–419.Google Scholar
  7. Himmelsbach, K. K. (1977, Sept. 7–9). Social work with the cancer patient. InProceedings of the American Cancer Society's Second National Conference on Human Values and Cancer. Chicago, IL., 143–148.Google Scholar
  8. Johnson, S. C. & Spilka, B., (1991). Religion and the breast cancer patient: The role of clergy and personal faith.Journal of Religion and Health, 30 21–33.Google Scholar
  9. Lee, M. L. (1977, Sept. 7–9). Community resources and the cancer patient. InProceedings of the American Cancer Society's Second National Conference on Human Values and Cancer. Chicago, IL., 118–121.Google Scholar
  10. Monaco, G. P. (1977, Sept. 7–9). InProceedings of the American Cancer Society's Second National Conference on Human Values and Cancer. Chicago, Il., 36–43.Google Scholar
  11. Northouse, L. L. (1984). The impact of cancer on the family: An overview.International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 14 215–242.Google Scholar
  12. Northouse, P. G. & Northouse, L. L. (1987). Communication and cancer: Issues confronting patients, health professionals, and family members.Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 5(3), 17–46.Google Scholar
  13. Pruyser, P. W. (1977). The seamy side of current religious beliefs.Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 41, 329–348.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Pruyser, P. W. (1987). Maintaining hope in adversity.Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 51, 463–474.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Spilka, B., Spangler, J. D., & Nelson, C. B. (1983). Spiritual support in life-threatening illness.Journal of Religion and Health, 22, 98–104.Google Scholar
  16. Van Dongen-Melman, J. E. W. M., & Sanders-Woudstra, J. A. R. (1986). Psychosocial aspects of childhood cancer: A review of the literature.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 27, 145–180.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Wilbur, J. R. (1972, June 22–24). Pediatricians and other professionals and the child. InProceedings of the American Cancer Society's National Conference on Human Values and Cancer, Atlanta, GA., 121–123.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Spilka
    • 1
  • William J. Zwartjes
    • 2
  • Georgia M. Zwartjes
    • 2
  1. 1.University of DenverUSA
  2. 2.Penobscot Bay Medical CenterRockland

Personalised recommendations