Symptoms of post-traumatic stress in children with cancer and their parents: Effects of informant and time from diagnosis
Article first published online: 3 APR 2005
Copyright © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Pediatric Blood & Cancer
Volume 45, Issue 7, pages 952–959, December 2005
How to Cite
Phipps, S., Long, A., Hudson, M. and Rai, S. N. (2005), Symptoms of post-traumatic stress in children with cancer and their parents: Effects of informant and time from diagnosis. Pediatr. Blood Cancer, 45: 952–959. doi: 10.1002/pbc.20373
- Issue published online: 10 OCT 2005
- Article first published online: 3 APR 2005
- Manuscript Accepted: 10 JAN 2005
- Manuscript Received: 11 OCT 2004
- National Cancer Institute. Grant Number: R01 CA 82378
- American Lebanese-Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC)
- childhood cancer;
- post-traumatic stress
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been put forth as a model for understanding the adjustment of children with cancer and their parents, but findings in the literature regarding the prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) have been mixed. This study examined PTSS levels in both patients and parents as a function of time elapsed from diagnosis, and by use of parent versus child reports for assessing patient PTSS.
Four groups of patients (total N = 162) differing in time elapsed since diagnosis were assessed with standardized measures of PTSS. Patients reported on their own symptoms, while parents reported on their symptoms as well as symptoms in their child.
Significant differences between groups were observed on all patient PTSS measures. Recently diagnosed patients obtained higher PTSS scores than survivors more than 5 years from diagnosis. Likewise, parents of recently diagnosed patients self-reported significantly higher levels of PTSS than parents of long-term survivors. Parent–child correlations were high and no differences were observed between parent and patient report of patient PTSS. Comparison with historical control data suggests that levels of PTSS in patients are very low.
Concordance between parent and child reports of child PTSS suggests that data may be obtained with reasonable confidence from either if only one informant is available. Higher levels of PTSS in patients who are recently diagnosed (and their parents) in comparison to long-term survivors, suggest that the symptoms reported reflect primarily a concurrent response to ongoing acute stressors, rather than a post-traumatic re-experiencing of past traumas. This, in combination with the low levels of patient PTSS raise questions regarding the utility of PTSD as a model for understanding patient and parent adjustment to childhood cancer. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.