Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 166–175 | Cite as

The Impact of a Child’s Cancer on the Father’s Relationship with His Spouse in Korea

  • Min Ah KimEmail author
  • Jaehee Yi
  • Jina Sang
  • Jen Molloy
Original Paper


A father of a child with cancer experiences psychological stress related to his child’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, which may affect his relationship with his spouse. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to how having a child with cancer affects the marital relationship from the perspective of the father. We examined the impact of the child’s cancer on the father’s relationship with his spouse in Korea. We conducted in-depth interviews with 20 fathers (mean age = 41.35 years; SD = 4.49) of children who were diagnosed with cancer before the age of 19 and were within 5 years of the diagnosis. The mean age of the child with cancer was 9.1 years (SD = 3.68), and the mean age at diagnosis was 6.4 years (SD = 4.08). The analysis of the interviews revealed the following four themes (and eight subthemes): conflicts between spouses (lack of father’s participation in caregiving, financial and work-related stress), mental suffering (heartbroken, torn between caregiving and work), change in communication (child-focused communication, avoiding communication), and change in the marital relationship (neglected relationship, new trust built in the relationship). A father’s increased conflict in the marital relationship after his child’s diagnosis of cancer was intensified by his limited involvement in child care and parenting responsibilities. An understanding of the change in the father’s relationship with his spouse can inform the development of a psychosocial intervention that may strengthen a father’s emotional intelligence and resilience, which could improve the marital relationship.


Fathers Child with cancer Spousal relationship Qualitative research South Korea 



This research was supported by funding from the Korean Association for Children with Leukemia and Cancer.

Author Contributions

M.K.: designed and executed the study, collected data, conducted data analyses, and wrote the paper. J.Y.: collaborated with the design, assisted with the data analyses, and writing of the study. J.S. and J.M.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WelfareMyongji UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.College of Social WorkUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.School of Social WorkThe University of AkronAkronUSA

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