Coping strategies used by children hospitalized with cancer: an exploratory study

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Abstract

Objectives: The treatment of cancer is a stressful and threatening experience, particularly for children. Knowing how children cope with cancer is a crucial step toward designing appropriate psychological interventions that help them ease the burden of cancer treatment. The purpose of this study was to examine the coping strategies used by Chinese children hospitalized with cancer, an area of research that is under-represented in the existing literature.

Methods: Hong Kong Chinese children (9–16-year olds) admitted for cancer treatment to the pediatric oncology units of two different regional acute public hospitals were invited to participate. A short one-to-one structured interview was conducted with each participant. Content analysis was conducted to analyze the interview data.

Results: A convenience sample of 88 children was recruited and participated in the interviews during an 8-month period. The coping strategies used by Chinese children hospitalized with cancer did not differ according to gender and diagnosis, but only according to age, with younger children using less problem-focused and more emotion-focused coping strategies than older children. The overall results indicated that 30% of these Chinese patients used problem-focused coping strategies, while 70% used emotion-focused coping.

Conclusions: Findings from this study indicated that children use different coping strategies at different developmental stages. The study also revealed that Chinese children used more emotion-focused than problem-focused coping strategies than their Western counterparts. The information derived from this study will help health-care professionals design and shape appropriate psychological interventions that can help reduce the burden of cancer treatment. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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