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Keywords:

  • uncertainty;
  • parent-child relationship;
  • cancer;
  • growth and development;
  • adolescence

Abstract

Despite recognition as a significant stressor in childhood cancer, illness-related uncertainty from the perspective of children remains under-studied. We tested a conceptual model of uncertainty, derived from Mishel's uncertainty in illness theory, in 68 school-aged children and adolescents with cancer. As hypothesized, uncertainty was significantly related to psychological distress, but only one hypothesized antecedent (parental uncertainty) significantly predicted children's uncertainty. An alternative model incorporating antecedent developmental factors (age and illness-specific expertise) explained 21% of the variance in child uncertainty; controlling for stage of treatment, uncertainty was higher in children with shorter time since diagnosis, older age, lower cancer knowledge, and higher parental uncertainty. These findings provide the foundation for further studies to understand children's management of uncertainty and its contribution to psychological adjustment to illness. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 33:179–191, 2010