Parent-child communication patterns during the first year after a parent's cancer diagnosis

The effect on parents' functioning

Authors

  • Stacey Gazendam-Donofrio MS,

    Corresponding author
    1. Wenckebach Institute, University Medical Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    • Wenckebach Institute, University Medical Center Groningen, PO Box 30001, 9700 RB, Groningen, The Netherlands
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    • Fax: (011) 31-50-361-9326

  • Harald Hoekstra MD, PhD,

    1. Department of Surgical Oncology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Winette van der Graaf MD, PhD,

    1. Department of Medical Oncology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Harry van de Wiel PhD,

    1. Wenckebach Institute, University Medical Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    2. Health Psychology, SHARE, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Annemieke Visser PhD,

    1. Wenckebach Institute, University Medical Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Gea Huizinga PhD,

    1. Wenckebach Institute, University Medical Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Josette Hoekstra-Weebers PhD

    1. Wenckebach Institute, University Medical Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    2. Health Psychology, SHARE, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    3. Comprehensive Cancer Center North-East Netherlands
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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Good parent-child communication is thought to help families adjust more easily during stressful events such as parental cancer. Families dealing with cancer who communicate openly have reported less psychological distress. The first year after diagnosis may be particularly stressful. The authors investigated parents' quality of life (QOL) and stress-response symptoms and parent-child communication during the first year after diagnosis and examined possible relationships between communication and parents' functioning.

METHODS:

Recently-diagnosed cancer patients (N = 70) and spouses (N = 55) participated within 4 months of diagnosis (T1) and 6 months (T2) and 12 months later (T3). Parents reported on communication with the children (PACS) and on their own physical and psychosocial functioning (RAND-36) and stress-response symptoms (IES).

RESULTS:

Parent-child communication remained stable throughout the first year after diagnosis and was similar to communication in families 1 year to 5 years after diagnosis. Patients' functioning improved and cancer-related distress decreased significantly. Spouses' cancer-related distress decreased; their functioning fluctuated through the year. In concurrent analyses, patients' open communication with the children related only to T1 intrusion. Spouses' open communication related to T3 psychosocial functioning; problem communication related to T1 and T2 psychosocial functioning and T2 avoidance. In prospective analyses, no significant relationships were found between parent-child communication and change in parents' functioning.

CONCLUSIONS:

Communication between parents and children remained stable over time; patients' and spouses' functioning improved. Parent-child communication seems to have a limited affect on parents' functioning. Cancer 2009. © 2009 American Cancer Society.

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