Exploring predictors of optimism among parents of children with cancer



Objective: To explore predictors of optimism in parents of children with cancer.

 Methods: A cross-sectional multi-centre study of 411 parents of children in active treatment for cancer was conducted. The Life Orientation Test—Revised was used to assess optimism. Other appropriate items and standardized questionnaires were used to assess parent and child characteristics. Predictors of optimism were explored using simple and multiple linear regression modelling techniques.

 Results: The presence of positive intrapsychic traits, such as self-esteem and mastery, was more predictive of parental optimism than factors related to child cancer, such as the child's prognosis. Intrapsychic traits combined with an absence of parental depression, the parents' perception of the child's prognosis and parent education level predicted over 50% of the variance in parent optimism. Correlations between parents' and oncologists' view of the child's prognosis were low.

 Conclusions: Positive intrapsychic traits are important predictors of optimism in the presence of a parent's positive view of the child's prognosis and higher education levels in the absence of depression. The results also favour the perspective of optimism as a trait of the parent who is resilient to a life stressor, such as dealing with childhood cancer. Additional knowledge about the role of optimism in caregiving for a child with cancer is needed before it can be explored for assessment or intervention purposes. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.